Rockets Injure Four Troops in Afghanistan
Thursday September 30, 11:58 AM AP
Two rockets slammed into a NATO military camp in northern Afghanistan, wounding four soldiers gearing up to protect the country's landmark elections, officials said Thursday.
The pair of 107-millimeter rockets hit the base in Kunduz city late Wednesday evening, said Lt. Cdr. Ken Mackillop, a spokesman for the international force in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
One soldier seriously injured was undergoing surgery at the base medical facility early Thursday, Mackillop said. He gave no further details.
A spokesman for the German Defense Ministry in Berlin said two of the wounded soldiers were German and a third was Swiss. The official made no mention of a fourth casualty.
NATO has lifted its troop strength to about 9,500 ahead of the Oct. 9 presidential election, when its soldiers will join the separate 18,000-strong U.S. force and Afghan authorities to provide security.
The alliance's troops are focused on the capital and northern Afghanistan, where factional violence has been a more serious problem than the insurgency plaguing the south and east.
Afghan and foreign officials predict that Taliban-led militants will step up their attacks to coincide with the vote, the first national ballot since the hardline Islamic regime's ouster.
Elsewhere, Taliban militants crept up to an Afghan government office under cover of darkness early Wednesday and launched a gunbattle that left four attackers and three Afghan troops dead, police said.
The mayor's office in Khaki Afghan, a district of southeastern Zabul province, was targeted by rebels armed with machine guns and rifles, deputy police chief Jailani Khan said.
In four hours of fighting, four Taliban were killed and two more captured along with their weapons, Khan said.
Suspected Taliban Kill Five Afghan Troops
Wed Sep 29, 5:00 AM ET World - Reuters
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Suspected Taliban guerrillas killed five Afghan troops in an ambush on a district headquarters in a troubled southern province, officials said on Wednesday, 11 days before a landmark election.
The Tuesday night attack in the Khake Afghan district of Zabul province came hours after Taliban combatants killed four police in another part of the restive region, said Jailani Khan, a senior provincial police official.
The clash between government forces and radical Islamic militants bent on disrupting a presidential ballot on Oct. 9 lasted for several hours before the gunmen retreated, Khan said.
Abdul Latif Hakimi, a spokesman for the Taliban, said four Taliban fighters were wounded in the fighting, and put the government death toll at 21.
More than 1,000 people have been killed since August last year in violence linked to remnants of the Taliban, toppled from power in a U.S.-led war for failing to hand over al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Most of the 18 candidates for president have called for the poll to be delayed until security improves, but President Hamid Karzai, who is overwhelming favorite to keep his job, has said the vote will take place on schedule.
The election has been delayed twice partly because of insecurity.
US-Led Forces Focus on South, East for Afghan Election
September 29, 2004
KABUL (Reuters) - U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan are stepping up efforts to improve security before next month's election, focusing on the south and southeast where militants have been most active, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.
But members of the 18,000-strong force will not be stationed at any of the 25,000 polling booths on Oct. 9 when Afghans take part in their first ever direct presidential ballot.
Presidential candidates and non-governmental organizations have complained that the international community has failed to do enough to provide a safe environment for the election.
The majority of the 18 contenders want the poll postponed until security improves because remnants of the ousted Taliban militia and allies including al Qaeda are seeking to disrupt the vote.
U.S. military spokesman Major Scott Nelson said coalition forces would provide quick reaction forces in the event of violence and support the fledgling Afghan National Army.
Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body would hire private security to monitor polling stations, Afghan police would throw a cordon around them and the Afghan National Army would in turn surround them, he told a news briefing.
"In Zabul province, Uruzgan, places in the south and southeast where we've had problems in the past, are areas where we'll certainly focus on enhanced security," he added.
The Afghan authorities have been provided with 60,000 sets of riot gear to allow police to control crowds without having to resort to lethal fire after at least seven people were killed in unrest in the western city of Herat earlier this month.
Nelson praised Pakistan for bolstering security along its frontier in southwestern Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan.
U.S. officials have been critical of Islamabad for failing to do enough to halt the flow of Taliban militants from its soil into Afghanistan, although Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, says it is doing all it can.
On Monday, coalition troops near Shkin, close to the Pakistan border, came under fire from foreign militants they suspect were from the Taliban.
As the militants retreated toward Pakistan with a view to fleeing there, U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan contacted the Pakistani authorities who blocked the gunmen's exit, helping coalition forces round up 15 militants.
"This would never have happened a year ago, two years ago," Nelson said.
Taliban guerrillas and their allies have vowed to disrupt the election, and more than 1,000 people have died in militant-related attacks since August last year.
They view the poll as a sham coordinated by the United States, and have vowed to rid Afghanistan of foreign troops. In addition to coalition forces, around 8,000 NATO-led peacekeepers are positioned mainly in Kabul.
Clashes in southern Afghanistan, seven killed
Source: Aljazeera / September 29, 2004
Clashes between suspected Taliban fighters and Afghanistan’s security forces early Wednesday, have left four fighters and three Afghan soldiers dead, police said.
Fighting broke out when the Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan government office in a southern province.
The attack occurred in the Khake Afghan district of Zabul province. Clashes lasted for several hours before the fighters retreated, Jailani Khan, a senior provincial police official, said.
"We are holding the bodies of the four dead Taliban," Khan said.
On the other hand, a spokesman for the Taliban, Abdul Latif Hakimi, said that four fighters were injured in the fighting, and placed the government’s fatalities toll at 21.
Taliban have vowed to disrupt the country’s presidential elections due on October 9. Most of the 18 candidates have called for the ballot to be postponed until security improves.
However, President Hamid Karzai has said that the elections will take place as scheduled. The vote has been postponed twice partly because of security reasons.
Meanwhile, a motorcyclist was killed in an explosion in Khost province. Gen. Fazel Mohammed Sahel said that the motorcyclist was killed after the explosion tore his body apart, set fire to his bike and wounded a farmer riding a passing tractor.
"He came across the fields and drove onto the main road near the police checkpoint," said Sahel. "There was a military vehicle driving toward him, and suddenly he blew up."
"We think he had explosives around his body. Half of him was simply gone," he said.
Over 1,000 people have lost their lives since August last year in attacks across the country.
Pentagon announces plan to build 5 Afghan army bases
On Tuesday, the Pentagon notified Congress of plans to construct five army bases in Afghanistan for the Afghan National Army.
The Pentagon said that Afghanistan had demanded that the bases be built for the Afghan army's Central Corps in Kabul and four regional commands planned in Gardez, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.
"The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as one billion dollars," the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.
It also said that the Army Corps of Engineers will be in charge of the project.
However, the Pentagon did not say where the funds would come from, or when would the construction work start.
"Karzai wants to omit the mujahideen from the scene" - Fahim
Afghanistan's election bandwagon creaked into motion on Tuesday with a regional strongman attracting the biggest gathering of the campaign.
Some 30,000 people jammed a sports stadium in the northern Afghan town of Shiberghan to hear regional strongman General Abdul Rashid Dostum launch his bid for the presidency with a call for national unity. "Afghanistan is going through one of its difficult stages," the candidate told the crowd, made up mostly of fellow ethnic Uzbeks. "You need to know who you want to vote for."
Dostum and former education minister Yunus Qanuni, both so-called "mujahideen," or holy warriors, are seen as the two most serious election rivals to President Hamid Karzai, who enjoys strong Western support and is favored to win the landmark Oct. 9 poll.
Mujahideen leaders, some of them local warlords, say they have been discriminated against by Karzai, who they say spent most of his time in safety abroad while they fought the Red Army and the Taliban. But Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday that regional commanders and factional leaders posed as much of a threat to Afghanistan as its former hard-line Islamist Taliban rulers, who have waged an insurgency since being deposed in 2001.
WARLORDS CALLING THE SHOTS
"This report shows the warlords are still calling the shots," Human Rights Watch Afghan researcher John Sifton said. "Human Rights Watch urges President Karzai and the Afghan government to continue to step up efforts to sideline abusive commanders and refrain from deal-making that would further entrench warlord rule," the report said.
At the United Nations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, told the Security Council that Afghanistan is seeking help from warlords and other local leaders, as well as foreign forces and its own army to ensure security for the vote. "Tribal elders have been requested to both provide security and work with local councils to ensure that those attempting to disrupt the process are deterred or discouraged. In most cases, their response has been extremely positive," he said.
The Afghan election, less than a month before the U.S. presidential vote, is widely viewed as a major test of President Bush's policies. The Bush administration is also pushing for early elections in strife-torn Iraq. In comments likely to heighten tensions between Karzai and factional leaders, Afghanistan's powerful defense minister, Mohammad Qasim Fahim, criticized Karzai during a meeting with Ismail Khan, whom the president dismissed this month as governor of Herat.
Fahim said Karzai had betrayed those who fought the Soviets and the Taliban. "He wants to omit the mujahideen from the scene," he said.
LARGEST RALLY TO DATE
Most of the 18 presidential candidates have called for the election to be delayed until security improves. Karzai has said the vote will go ahead on schedule. At the United Nations, Guehenno acknowledged reports of voter intimidation but said he was confident those incidents "will not be such that they damage the credibility of the elections." The Shiberghan rally was the largest reported election gathering to date -- although there are doubts over whether Dostum can appeal to voters outside his northern heartland.
Dostum told the crowd that Karzai's government had created an atmosphere of "mistrust," and criticized him for failing to crush the Taliban and allies including al Qaeda. Dostum played a key role in helping the United States topple the Taliban in 2001, but has seen his influence diluted as a disarmament drive eats into his militia in the north. Remnants of the Taliban have been blamed for a wave of violence since August 2003 in which more than 1,000 people have been killed.
In the latest incidents, at least four Afghan policemen were killed and a former official's driver beheaded in attacks in the southern province of Zabul, a police official said.
Afghan leader seeks refugees' votes in presidential polls
QUETTA, Pakistan, Sept 29 (AFP) - An election campaigner for Afghan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday urged refugees in Pakistan to cast their votes in favour of peace, stability and progress in their homeland.
"Hamid Karzai is a symbol of unity, peace, stability and (the) well-being of the Afghan nation," Abdul Jabbar Naeemi told some 2,000 Afghan refugees at meetings held in two camps in southwestern Baluchistan province.
"I urge you to vote for President Karzai to put the country on the path of progress after two decades of bloodshed," Naeemi said.
Naeemi has addressed similar meetings elsewhere in Pakistan where between 600,000 to 800,000 refugees are expected to register at stations set up by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The three-day refugee registration in Pakistan will start on Friday. The IOM is setting up around 1,670 polling stations in western Pakistan where most refugee camps are based.
United Nations officials, who are helping organise the polls, have said ten percent of the vote for Afghanistan's first elected president could come from refugees in Iran and Pakistan.
Southwestern Baluchistan province which borders Afghanistan has up to 500,000 Afghan refugees living in six camps.
"You should take part in the election process and particularly send your women to cast their votes in favour of Karzai who is playing a greater role for the unity of Afghanistan," Naeemi told refugees in Surkhab camp, 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of the provincial capital Quetta.
A gathering of Afghan refugees in nearby Saranan camp passed several resolutions calling upon people to discard those who were responsible for spreading bloodshed in their country.
Next month's presidential polls will be contested by 18 candidates including Karzai.
Some 10.5 million Afghans inside Afghanistan have already registered to vote in the direct presidential elections.
Iran: Afghan voter preparation proceeding well
ANKARA, 29 September (IRIN) - With just 10 days to go to polling, preparations to give hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Iran the chance to vote in Afghanistan's presidential elections next month are proceeding well.
"Most of the eligible voters here, most Afghan refugees here, will have the opportunity to cast a ballot," Craig Jenness, head of the International Organisation for Migration's (IOM) Out of Country Registration and Voting Programme (OCRV), told IRIN on Wednesday from the Iranian capital, Tehran.
"It's a really tight time frame," Jenness said, noting, however, that he remained confident that arrangements for the election on 9 October would be in place.
The IOM, on behalf of the Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), is overseeing what looks set to become the largest out of country voting for refugees every held. Over one million Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan - the two largest host countries to the Afghan diaspora - are expected to vote.
And though there were no exact number of eligible voters in Iran, given a mass registration of Afghans living in the country in 2003, the number of returns since April 2002, and using a figure of 57 percent of the population being over the age of 18 (the age required to vote), Jenness estimated that up to 600,000 Afghans in the country were eligible to participate.
"Anyone who has documentation to prove that he is Afghan, residing legally in Iran, and is over the age of 18, can vote," he said.
Headquartered in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, the IOM-OCRV maintains three regional offices: the western Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Quetta, and Tehran.
Voting centres have been set up in seven Iranian cities: Tehran, Qom, Esfahan, Shiraz, Kerman, Zahedan and Mashad, areas where the vast majority of Afghans live.
"We are focusing our activities there, where upwards of 85 percent of the Afghan population lives," he explained, adding, however, Afghans living in other provinces could travel and vote in any of the polling stations if they had the proper documentation, but might chose not to because of the distances.
Still another concern he had was the fact that the elections would fall on a Saturday, a normal working day in Iran. "It may be more difficult for some people to vote on Saturday, but we hope employers will be flexible."
According to the IOM, some 1,150 polling stations will open on 9 October in around 130 locations to cater for the voters. The total number of stations takes into account the entire eligible population of both genders in the target areas.
"We are hopeful that the turnout of women will be good," he said.
"IOM is organising the elections with the government of Iran," the IOM official noted, adding that within the past 45 days they had succeeded in hiring 8,000 Afghan staff, who would be managing most of the process on the ground.
"It's very interesting and in some ways inspiring working with the Afghans, many of whom have never cast a ballot in their lives. There is a lot of enthusiasm for this election," he said.
Pakistan: IOM busy with Afghan voter education campaign
PESHAWAR, 29 September (IRIN) - As the time approaches for Afghans to vote on 9 October to chose their first-ever elected president, the voter education campaign being run by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for Afghan refugees in Pakistan is in full swing.
"Our voter educational strategy includes community meetings, radio and TV broadcasts and the distribution of voter educational material," Maurizio Giuliano, the regional reporting officer of the IOM's Out of Country Registration and Voting (OCRV) exercise, told IRIN in the northern city of Peshawar.
For the vast majority of Afghans, this will be the first time that they are voting in a democratic election. Through extensive public awareness campaigns, the IOM intends to inform Afghans of their right to vote, and encourage female participation in particular.
"Our educational campaign is aimed at, firstly, letting people know that there is an election; secondly, letting people know the long terms benefits of elections, why they are encouraged to vote, and certain issues such as the equality of men and women etc; and thirdly, to let them know the procedures to be followed for registration and polling," Giuliano said.
Giuliano said that the IOM voter education campaign approached the targeted community in four main ways. The agency has recruited over 600 community mobilisers, working in teams of two, in each country.
"We've organised over 500 voter education gatherings in NWFP alone that have been attended by an estimated 63,000 people, of which 26,500 were women and 36,500 men," Giuliano said, adding, "Our community mobilisers have talked to ordinary people in gatherings and also to community leaders, targeted religious figures - anyone who could help us in spreading information across to the voters."
The response from the Afghan community during the meetings, according to the IOM voter education officers, has been very good and encouraging, especially from the female population.
"The second means we've relied on is the media, by using advertising in the local newspapers and the radio - to get the message across," the IOM OCRV regional officer said. Vans covered with posters and with loudspeakers strapped to their roofs have also been driven through Afghan settlements, informing people of their right to vote as part of the IOM awareness raising strategy.
"The third thing is the distribution of materials talking about the polling procedure. Up to now we've distributed over 1,000 flip charts, over 40,000 posters, over 245000 flyers, over 10,000 tapes and over 500 handbooks," Giuliano said. The voter educational posters, printed in Dari and Pashto, have been plastered on the walls of shops and in markets with concentrations of Afghans that illustrate the entire electoral process.
"And the fourth and final part of our voter education strategy is a helpline, which we've exclusively set up to give people information about the elections," Giuliano said. The IOM officer said that Afghans could call the number free of charge from any landline in Pakistan and receive information about the registration and polling procedures, and any other issues involved. The IOM has also created a website regarding the Afghanistan OCRV.
Under the criteria determined by the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), everyone is eligible provided that they are an Afghan citizen, they left Afghanistan after 1979, and they are 18 or above on the day of the election.
"Each registrant will be required to confirm his/her Afghan nationality and eligibility to participate in the election, and then each will receive a registration receipt to be presented on polling day," Seema Ahmed, a community mobiliser told IRIN in Peshawar.
The IOM's voter education campaign includes information only about the importance of voting and election procedure. "We are not informing voters about the candidates. It is up to the candidates themselves, and their respective groups and parties to make themselves known to the population," Giuliano said.
"We [IOM] have got US $21 million for the first election in Pakistan and Iran and then $5 million more if there is a run-off election in November," Darren Boisvert, the IOM OCRV media officer, told IRIN in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
The IOM has been entrusted with the task of conducting the out of country Afghan election on the behalf of the JEMB and UNAMA.
"IOM is the sole implementing agency for this project [OCRV]. No other NGO is involved in terms of implementation because, following the 1996 agreement between UNDP and IOM, we became an implementing agency ourselves," IOM OCRV regional officer Giuliano said.
Giuliano explained: "We've used local facilitators, we've relied on the help of certain NGOs as regards logistical issues, as regards human resources and as regards a number of other operational details. We've received a lot of help from NGOs."
However, the IOM regional officer said that there is no kind of formal involvement as such. "Above 20 to 30 NGOs are helping us as regards the voter education campaign, disseminating voter education materials and talking to the community etc. We have also received cooperation in distributing flyers, leaflets and things like that," Giuliano said.
When Afghans vote on Oct 9, India will leave an indelible mark
Thursday, September 30, 2004 Express India
Besides supplying marker ink, former EC officials from India have been told to ensure polls are free and fair
KABUL, SEPTEMBER 29: In Afghanistan’s first ever Presidential elections due on October 9, the credit for providing what an independent research group describes as ‘‘the last line of defence against fraud’’ goes entirely to India.
The reference by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) is to the black indelible ink that will mark the left thumb cuticle of every Afghan, from among the over 10.6 million people, eligible to vote in what is undoubtedly a trail-blazing exercise in democracy. Around a million more will also vote in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran.
And, if the full-colour ballot papers listing the 18 presidential candidates, including interim President Hamid Karzai, are being supplied by Canada and the ballot-boxes by Denmark, the all-important indelible ink, manufactured by Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd, is a gift from India.
‘‘The ink will be one of the most important components in the electoral exercise since it will ensure that nobody votes twice,’’ said S K Mendiratta, one of the five international members on the 11-member Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), Afghanistan’s UN-backed Election Commission. The other five foreign members are from the US, Sweden, Spain and Indonesia.
Though the ink is the same as used in India’s Parliamentary elections, it is packaged differently to ensure easier handling. It comes in around 50,000 marker pens that will be supplied to nearly 20,000 polling stations across the country. ‘‘Once it’s on the cuticle, it’s impossible to take it off,’’ said Jon Sifton of Human Rights Watch, displaying the left thumb he got marked at the JEMB. ‘‘This is pretty good stuff.’’
All the attention being paid to the ink is primarily because of fears of massive fraud in the elections, since away from Kabul, warlords and tribal chiefs still continue to call the shots. According to the AREU, there has been significant over-registration of voters in 13 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
The voter registration cards carry photographs, but women have the choice to do without them. So multiple cards are said to be especially common among women. People will be free to vote atany polling station, since there will be no voters’ lists. But the voter registration card will be punched once the vote is cast.
Many people have taken out multiple cards because any government document in Afghanistan has a resale price. Fahima, a cook, for instance, has ten cards, although she does not plan to vote. She claims to have sold two of her cards for Rs 2,400 each, more than her monthly wage.
The responsibility for ensuring that the electoral process is free and fair vests on an Indian K J Rao who, like Mendiratta, is a retired official of India’s Election Commission— both are now re-employed as EC advisors. ‘‘The number of complaints so far have been very few, but I did investigate a case of multiple female cards issued in central Afghanistan and found there was malpractice,’’ said Rao, who is in charge of electoral investigation and enforcement for the whole country.
‘‘One unique aspect of the Afghanistan election is that government servants are permitted to openly campaign outside office hours,’’ he said. ‘‘That makes my job easier (since one main source of possible electoral misconduct won’t count).’’
There is one other former EC official, Thomas Mathew, who is also playing a significant role in the Afghan elections. He is in charge of elections in the Hazara-dominated central highlands of Bamiyan, where the Taliban destroyed two standing Buddhas.
The conduct of the elections is a daunting challenge for the JEMB. Besides the threat of violence from warlords and members of the deposed Taliban regime, the entire opertion appears an audacious gamble in a country with low literacy, non-existent roads, poor communications, and no tradition of electoral democracy.
‘‘Let there be bomb attacks, but we will go and vote,’’ said taxi-driver Mohammed Ismail, as a Bollywood song reverberated through his cab. ‘‘There are only two choices now — democracy or back to gun rule’’.
The JEMB has to recruit around 100,000 polling officials, at least a quarter of them educated. So unlike in India, many of the officials would have to be private citizens. After the voting, the ballot boxes will be brought to eight regional centres for counting, and the result will be known only around the end of October. If no candidate gets 50 per cent or more of the votes in the first round, there will be a run-off between the two leading contenders in early December.
Afghanistan’s momentous presidential polls will however go largely unobserved by international experts. Due to fears about security, even the European Union has decided not to appoint a full-fledged observer mission. But the newly set-up Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan is busy training around 3,000 Afghans to act as election observers. They might be assisted by a few independent foreign observers willing to take the risk.
‘‘Just like in Bihar, in remote areas here we may not get to know what actually went on,’’ said Mendiratta. ‘‘But by and large, things should go alright. All arrangements are getting into place. The only real concern is security.’’
15 Afghans held with Pakistani troops’ help
KABUL: US-led troops in Afghanistan captured 15 Afghans on Wednesday with the help of Pakistani troops, and in another incident Taliban militants killed five afghan troops in Kandahar.
It was not clear whether the 15 detainees, described as “local nationals”, had taken part in the attack in insurgency-hit Shkin district, which faces Pakistan’s remote tribal area where Al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives have hidden.
“They were detained for questioning and then later released,” spokesman Mark McCann told AFP. “We do not have definite information that these people were part of the anti-coalition militia who were being pursued by the coalition forces.”The suspects were captured when Pakistani troops prevented a group of insurgents from crossing into their side of the border as coalition forces pursued them after a brief gunbattle, another US spokesman Major Scott Nelson said. There were no reports of deaths in the gunfight.
In another incident, suspected Taliban guerrillas killed five Afghan troops in an ambush on a district headquarters in Kandahar, officials told Resuters on Wednesday.
The Tuesday night attack in the Khake Afghan district of Zabul province came hours after Taliban combatants killed four police in another part of the restive region, said Jailani Khan, a senior provincial police official.
Abdul Latif Hakimi, a spokesman for the Taliban, said four Taliban fighters were wounded in the fighting, and put the government death toll at 21. agencies
Iran Plans to Increase Industrial Exports to Afghanistan
Thursday September 30, 9:33 AM Asia Pulse
TEHRAN, Sept 30 Asia Pulse - Iran plans to increase the total value of its industrial exports to Afghanistan this year by US$300 million, according to the English-language daily, Tehran Times.
The daily quoted Ministry of Industries and Mines Director-General Ahmad Qasemi as saying that if the plan is achieved, the amount would mean a 50 per cent growth compared to the value of exports in the previous year.
Iran`s total industrial and mineral exports to countries abroad reached US$4 billion during the said period, he added.
He said his ministry has set a target of US$1.5 billion until the end of the year (March 20, 2005).
Currently, Iran exports more than 1000 kinds of industrial products to countries abroad such as medicines, detergents, chemical and petrochemical substances, plastics and melamine, tires, cellulose, mineral products, various kinds of metals and fabrics, thread, synthetic fibers, shoes, cars and auto spare parts.
Durrani reiterates firm commitment to support process of peace in Afghanistan
The Pakistan Link - Thursday Sep 30 1:11 PM SGT
PESHAWAR : The Chief Minister Akram Khan Durrani has reiterated his Government firm commitment to support the process of peace in Afghanistan. The development and stability of our own nation was dependant upon the peace and normalcy coming back to Afghanistan. We would be the main beneficiary of the peaceful Afghanistan, he added.
He was talking to the outgoing US Ambassador Nancy Powell who paid a courtesy call on at him at Frontier House, Peshawar. On this occasion US Counsellor at Peshawar Michael Spangler was also present. The outgoing US Ambassador assured the Chief Minister that the developmental package for improved services in Poppy growing area was being finalized. Small projects in irrigation, health, agriculture and education were about to be put on ground shortly that would be followed by big projects. She appreciated the MMA government policies for good governance, realistic developmental policies and better law & order and security measures in Frontier Province.
The Chief Minster said that Frontier is a gateway towards Central Asian Republics. Disturbances in Afghanistan were the main cause to affect the trade & business activities and we wanted concerted efforts to strengthen democratic process in Afghanistan and for that there should be efforts to ensure that Afghans express their free will in the ensuing Afghanistan election.
To a question the Chief Minister said that the turn out of Afghans in the election will depend upon the freedom they enjoy. However one thing is certain that peace and normalcy in Afghanistan will reinforce trade & business activities in the entire region. He called upon outgoing US Ambassador to tell her people back in USA, the good work, people friendly policies and whatever she saw in MMA rule in Frontier Province so that the negative impression taken by the international community was faded away.
Durrani said that Frontier government had been bearing the brunt of Afghan refugees stay in Frontier Province. Their stay over-burdened the already inefficient infrastructure. They have been given services in health and education etc. They are in transport and business activities through all the sectors could not absorb. We shared every thing with our Afghan brethren because we wanted to have good and friendly relations with our neighboring Afghanistan. The international community should put their efforts and financial support to help the frontier government in meeting the refugees needs and requirements.
The Chief Minister said that MMA Government had been showing zero level tolerance to narcotics and poppy cultivation. There have been mountainous and inaccessible settled areas where the law enforcing agencies in the past cold not dare to stead but the law enforcing agencies under MMA rule carried out the Herculean task to destroy poppy cultivation in these hard and in-accessible areas. All these became possible because of our commitment and strong will.
However on the other side his government initiated developmental schemes in health, education, drinking water and road communication. This was an approach to use carrot & stick. However we wanted to educate the people, persuade them against the poppy cultivation as enjoined upon by our religion so that the people could themselves discontinue poppy cultivation.
The Chief Minister also refreshed his past memories when he and the out going US Ambassador visited Kohistan and how he persuaded the people for the puppy eradication. However, the backwardness of certain districts that was an abysmal needed to be removed through extending improved services in all social sectors. He said that we wanted the process of reformation and development should continue because we wanted rapid results. He said in Peshawar and Major Cities of the Province we have already launched campaigns against narcotics addiction. In Peshawar we have setup a center where we put the narcotics addicts, extend them Medicare and necessary training to bring them adopt normal life and earn their livelihood.
Durrani said under the devolution plan the Frontier Province already devolved 98% power and authority to district but these are yet to be devolved by the Center to Provinces and as such presently the devolution plan was incomplete. He said once the center devolved concurrent list along with budgeting the provinces would have space to move around and complete realistic developmental strategy. He said that with the devolution the spending rose manifold and the benefits invisible.
The Chief Minister said that our people were getting education and training to correspond with the present day dispensation. Our people are getting training abroad on completion they would transfer these ideas to our other people and as such our ideas and response to political issues would get further maturity.
Durrani Said that western media had been a source of spreading unfounded propaganda against the MMA government. When MMA reached at the helm of affairs there was much noices that MMA people would confine the women folk to their houses. They would restrict the women mobility in education and health and other sectors. But lately that come to reality that whatever MMA did for the empowerment of womenfolk was totally never witnessed in the past. We went with a focus approach to enter the women folk in the main stream of development.
Their rights were secured and the present government was also planning to provide free books to female up to matric. Education up to matric has already been declared free along with provision of free books to the Primary school going children. We wanted education to be the agent of a change. We wanted education to be the instrument of development of the society.
Durrani said the MMA government wanted security and safety to all because it was not only our religious obligation but moral as well. Our performance at this front should be an eye opener for all those who had been criticizing MMA for lack of ingenuity.
Chief Minister to another question regarding provision of safe mobility to refugee’s camps to monitor the ensuring the Afghan Election, said he had had 3 meetings to personally monitor the arrangements and we are doing well. However we are short of police personal and more importantly out of the 200 FC platoons 170 have been deployed in Sindh, Punjab, Northern areas and else where in the Country. The reality should stay in the mind that the basic tasks of this outfit is to secure safety. We have taken it with the Federal Government and hopefully we would generate a positive response.
Nancy Powell highly appreciated the good work done by the MMA in Frontier province. She assured all her support and shared the concerns of Chief Minister. She also indicated certain projects, which were in the pipeline for improved service in social sectors.
She also appreciated the efforts for poppy cultivation, people persuasion to eliminate poppy cultivation and hoped that the politician and members of Parliament getting training abroad would transfer their ideas for strong political dispensation and running the political business in the province.
She also appreciated the Chief Minister for extending security to the foreigners and assured that she would tell her people back in the USA how friendly and realistic policies the MMA government had evolved leading to good governance and exemplary law & order situation in the settled areas.
Idema takes a fall in Afghanistan
By Ramtanu Maitra Asia Times September 29, 2004
On September 16, Jonathan Idema was convicted in Afghanistan on charges of torture and other crimes. Idema was arrested after Afghan police found eight men tied up or hanging in his private prison in Kabul. Idema, a former member of the US Special Forces, claimed that he was acting at the behest of sections of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US Defense Department, including deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence General William Boykin.
The conviction of Jonathan "Jack" Idema was a foregone conclusion. To begin with, Idema, a paid mercenary, is dispensable. Second, by all accounts he was - despite denials - assigned to do the job by Boykin, who in turn reports directly to the under secretary of defense for military intelligence, Stephen Cambone. Had the charges been reviewed in depth at a fair trial, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and even Vice President Dick Cheney could have been implicated. While the high-ups condone and protect the methods applied by the lower ranks, but stay aloof from incriminating details, both Boykin and Cambone are certainly more vulnerable.
Not another Abu Ghraib
But that could not have happened. After the Iraqi prison abuses in Abu Ghraib became public, and the Pentagon went into full swing to control the damage before it reached the top, the Idema case was a non-starter. Already the stench of prison abuse and the torture and death of detainees in Afghanistan had begun to make the rounds. Washington found it necessary to shut down the Idema-run operation, put him to trial in a kangaroo court in an occupied country, and send him to jail for 10 years.
The Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has made an account of prison abuses by the Americans in Afghanistan available online. The report, albeit unpublished, was prepared by Afghan military investigators, and includes a separate memorandum by officials of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, several other official Afghan documents, and interviews with a number of people with direct knowledge of the story. The story tells about the arrest of eight Afghan soldiers by US Special Forces on March 1, 2003, at a checkpoint in a remote mountain pass in southeastern Afghanistan in detail.
Although they were allies, they were suspected as Taliban or al-Qaeda. They were subsequently taken for interrogation to Gardez. Seventeen days later they were released and handed over to the Afghan police. They had been severely beaten and tortured, and one was dead. Whether the Pentagon will ever carry out an investigation of this sordid affair is anyone's guess. But even if they do, the bureaucratic machine can easily bring such an inquiry to a standstill, at least until the US presidential election campaign is over in November, without determining who is to blame.
The Idema case was different for various reasons. Unlike those unnamed US Special Forces operating in remote areas of Afghanistan, Idema was a former Green Beret who used to hang around Fort Bragg in North Carolina for assignments from the Special Forces. Reports indicate that in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart, Sergeant Jonathan Keith Idema was sent to Lithuania to gather information. At the time, one columnist pointed out that "Idema's admirers claim Keith wowed the Lithuanian KGB guys by out-shooting them at the firing range and out-drinking them in the officers' club afterwards".
The Big Kahuna
The next year, 1992, Idema became the star at a Pentagon briefing by delivering the startling news that since the Soviet breakup, weapons-grade nuclear material had been not leaking, but pouring into the hands of the international terrorist underworld. After the Pentagon briefing two men approached Idema and said, "Great work, sergeant. We're FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] and CIA. Give us your sources over there and we'll continue your great work."
It is evident that Idema is part of a network, referred to as black ops, that functions in the shadows. As far as Idema is concerned, he has perhaps never functioned within legal parameters in his entire life. He is a cutthroat mercenary who gets paid on oral contracts and is left out in the cold to chill when things do not work out right and sensitive issues get exposed. That he did not get a fair trial should be no surprise because he worked for those who have the power to protect themselves.
On the other hand, despite railroading the case and stonewalling the evidence, the Pentagon left behind enough documents to make clear why Idema needed to be silenced. With the presidential elections a few weeks up the road and the Bush administration's role in Iraq and Afghanistan getting more negative attention than before, any exposure made by Idema could affect the US electorate in a bad way.
During the trial, Idema's lawyer, John Tiffany, began to play a videotape - shot by Edward Caballero, one of the two other Americans convicted and who was making a documentary to establish a connection between Idema and the Pentagon - of Idema's conversations with Boykin's office. The judge cut the presentation off summarily, however, and ended the trial. He refused to accept any of the defense's documents into evidence.
In the video, Idema spoke with a Pentagon employee named Jorge Shim who promised that someone from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) would call Idema back on his cellular phone. Subsequently, Shim told the media that he had spoken to Idema on more than one occasion.
Boykin in the background
In one conversation, Idema is heard telling Shim that he was close to rounding up a whole cell of terrorists. The aide responds: "I told General Boykin that you called. I gave him the information and to the DIA." Idema says: "There are more bombs and more bombers, and we are hitting them in five hours."
The aide replies: "Five hours? Jack, I'm going to have someone from the DIA contact you on your cell number, so give me a few minutes." A set of the videotapes that were presented as evidence but were not allowed to be played is now in the hands of the organization Democracy Now. The group contacted Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Conway to clarify the connection between the Pentagon and Idema. "We did not employ, sanction or sponsor Mr Idema," he told the group.
While Conway claimed that the relationship between Idema and the Pentagon was largely one-sided, lawyers for Idema have released a video that appears to show Idema making arrangements with a Pentagon official about handing over a suspected terrorist he had caught. Democracy Now asked Conway about this, and he confirmed that Idema had indeed helped the Pentagon capture a suspected terrorist. But he again denied any formal relationship between Idema and the Pentagon.
The Pentagon was clearly anxious to protect both Boykin and his boss, Cambone. As Seymour Hersh wrote in his article "The Gray Zone" in The New Yorker in May, Cambone was unpopular among military and civilian intelligence bureaucrats in the Pentagon, in essence because he had little experience in running intelligence programs; instead, he was known for his closeness to Rumsfeld. In 1998, Cambone had served as staff director for a committee, headed by Rumsfeld, that warned of an emerging ballistic-missile threat to the United States.
Cambone's name came up prominently during the Abu Ghraib investigations. He was recorded as saying that Boykin had briefed him on a report, which was prepared by Major-General Geoffrey Miller, on ways to improve intelligence-gathering at Abu Ghraib, that said Military Police (MPs) should help set conditions for the "successful exploitation" of detainees. Cambone went on to say that neither he, Miller, nor Boykin thought the report was "tantamount" to asking MPs to engage in abusive behavior.
Boykin, for his part, is a former commander of Delta Force. He goes way back to the aborted attempt to free American hostages in Iran under president Jimmy Carter, which sank Carter's re-election campaign in 1980. He was part of the commando unit that failed in the attempt to rescue the hostages held at the US Embassy in Tehran.
Boykin's fangs show
Boykin was also involved in Somalia, and a variety of hot spots around the world, including the first Gulf War in 1991. He is one of the most experienced special-operations commanders in the US military. It is not unlikely that he knows Idema at a personal, as well as at a professional, level.
More than his background as a man in uniform, what has drawn attention to Boykin is his virulent Christian fundamentalist views targeted against Islam. On the record, he has said that terrorists are trying to destroy the US because it is a Christian nation. He told a Muslim warlord that his own god was a real god, and the Muslim warlord's was an idol. Rumsfeld, Boykin's boss, defended him, saying the comments were made in a "private capacity". He also praised Boykin's "outstanding record", which spans 30 years in the US Army's Delta Force, Special Forces and the CIA.
There are many who agree that Boykin should have been removed from his post after his religious views came to light last fall. "I'm amazed, given that we have such horrible press overseas and are spending hundreds of millions of dollars for propaganda, that President [George W] Bush would keep somebody who is definitely anti-Muslim and who possibly is in charge of interrogations," said Yvonne Haddad, a professor at Georgetown University.
In the chain of command, Boykin ranks above military intelligence officers in Iraq, some of whom have been implicated in the prison abuse scandal. His name briefly surfaced at a Senate hearing when discussion turned to a report that recommended that Military Police work closely with military intelligence officers in getting information from detainees that could be used to fight the anti-American insurgency. MPs should be "actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful interrogation and exploitation" of prisoners, the report said.
With the help of his "protectors", Boykin weathered the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse charges. And now the Idema case has been dispensed with. For the time being, Boykin is in the clear. As for Idema, there is no reason to shed crocodile tears. He will continue to function in the shadows, and will have no difficulty in understanding why Boykin cut him loose.
Karzai Inaugurates Rebuilt Afghan Museum
Thursday September 30, 1:09 PM AP
President Hamid Karzai inaugurated Afghanistan's rebuilt national museum Wednesday, the latest effort to shed a positive light on the country's sluggish reconstruction 10 days before landmark elections.
Karzai cut a pink ribbon to mark the completion of the refit of the two-story museum, whose building was destroyed in civil war and whose collection was further decimated by the Taliban.
The U.S.-backed interim leader is the favorite among 18 candidates contesting the Oct. 9 ballot to become the country's first directly elected president.
Many Afghans are disappointed with efforts to put the country back on its feet after more than two decades of war _ dismay that Karzai's opponents hope to tap at the ballot box.
His challengers are also calling foul over the style of Karzai's campaign.
The opening of the National Museum was billed as official presidential business, rather than an election booster. Karzai says he's too busy to stump for votes.
But TV crews and photographers were allowed to join his tour of the gleaming white building, the third such event since Sunday for a leader usually confined to his fortified palace because of concerns for his safety.
Sayed Ishaq Gilani, one of the contenders hoping to at least push Karzai into a second round, echoed complaints that the United States was trying to stage-manage a Karzai poll victory.
"In a week, Karzai has suddenly become very active," Gilani said. "These opportunities are being provided by those countries funding these projects. The museum is not even finished, but Karzai wanted to inaugurate it before the election."
Flanked by a clutch of ministers and diplomats as well as his heavily armed bodyguards, Karzai inspected tables laden with pieces of artifacts smashed after the Taliban captured the capital in 1996 and banned human images as un-Islamic.
He peered over the shoulder of a white-coated restorer trying to put a statue back together.
Karzai made no public comment. But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad pressed the message already highlighted by the presidential inauguration of a women's dormitory at Kabul University and a road project in northern Jawzjan province.
The United States is funding all three projects.
"This restoration is of course part of the reconstruction of Afghanistan," Khalilzad said. "Afghan society is now getting itself ready for the future, but it is also reclaiming its past."
The entire top floor of the museum was destroyed during the civil war, which broke out among Afghanistan's mujahideen factions after Soviet occupiers withdrew in 1989.
Officials rescued some of the collection from the destruction and looters, but Taliban-sanctioned mobs demolished much of what was left after the hardline militia captured the city in 1996.
Some $350,000 has been spent since 2003 to fix the building, which lies in the shadow of a gutted former royal palace in the war-ravaged west of the capital.
Culture Minister Makhdom Raheen said 2,500 artifacts had been recovered from the collection, which was once one of the finest in Central Asia with 100,000 items dated back several millennia. A few dozen have been repaired.
The museum still needs display cases, security systems and trained staff before it can open to the public, officials said.
Pakistan gets its man ... sort of
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times September 29, 2004
KARACHI - Two days after Pakistani officials announced the death of Amjad Farooqi, the circumstances surrounding the killing of the person who is being billed as the country's most wanted man as well as a senior al-Qaeda figure remain murky.
Farooqi had been indicted in connection with the beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl in early 2002 and named by President General Pervez Musharraf as a mastermind of two bomb attacks against the president's motorcades in December last year. Officials had published a picture of Farooqi, with a reward of $330,000 for information leading to his arrest.
The official version runs something like this: Farooqi was tracked through his mobile telephone to a hideout in Nawabshah, a town 170 miles north of the port city of Karachi. Security forces surrounded the house and met heavy automatic gunfire from within. During the firefight, Farooqi and two others were killed, and three alleged accomplices were arrested. According to official leaks, Farooqi might have been close to Abu Faraj al-Libbi, a Libyan alleged to be al-Qaeda's head of Pakistan operations, who could now also have been arrested.
"Farooqi's elimination is a crushing blow to the al-Qaeda network in Pakistan because he was the man who had been providing al-Qaeda terrorists with the manpower to carry out attacks," a senior Pakistani security official was quoted by the French news service Agence France-Presse as saying.
Certainly, this is the view now widely disseminated in the international media, and used as proof that Musharraf is keeping up his side of the bargain in hunting down al-Qaeda operatives in the US's "war on terror".
However, extensive Asia Times Online research throws up a different picture.
Before the "war on terror" was launched after September 11, 2001 - when Musharraf threw in his lot with the US - Farooqi was an impoverished foot soldier in a jihadi organization. It is only in the past six months that he has suddenly emerged as a "kingpin" and super villain, with the source invariably being from the official side.
Farooqi never got to tell his side of the story. His last words, as he lay mortally wounded, were, "Oh God, you are the only one who sees." He then recited a few verses from the Koran and died.
Apart from a few paragraphs in the Punjab police's "red book", Farooqi led a largely insignificant life, until, overnight almost, he was elevated to being close to Khalid Shiekh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
According to information gathered by Asia Times Online from various sources, including his native villagers, jihadi friends and security files, Farooqi was born in the early 1970s in Chak 487 GB. Tehsil Samoundri, District Faisalabad, to a family that had migrated to Pakistan at independence in 1947 from Indian Punjab's Houshyarpur district.
Farooqi's childhood was passed in extreme poverty, and in need of a better life his family sent him to an uncle's home in Toba Tek Singh, where he completed his intermediate studies. Amjad had three brothers and three sisters. The most educated in the family is brother Javaid Iqbal, a graduate who now runs a private school. The other brothers are Fida Hussain, 28, and Amir, 22. The sisters, Zahida Parveen, Shahida Parveen and Khalida Parveen, are all married in different villages in Shiekupura and Faisalabad.
Farooqi married his maternal uncle's only daughter, Shabana Kausar, six years ago. They have a daughter. Shabana Kausar has lived at her father-in-law's residence since October 2001, when the US attacked Afghanistan. Since about that time, Farooqi had been in hiding as he was wanted in connection with the Pearl murder. Shabana Kausar has two brothers, Shebaz and Aqlak.
Different sources in his native town of Toba Tek Singh told Asia Times Online that Farooqi collected funds for jihadis in the 1980s, and he was known to have taken part in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in 1987. Later he made many visits of Kashmir and Afghanistan, like thousands of other jihadi foot soldiers. He was also associated with the Harkatul Ansar (HA). The HA emerged from the Harkat-i-Jihad-i-Islami, which was declared a terror organization by the US in the 1990s. The HA is led by Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil. Later he was thought to have been in contact with the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), a banned Pakistani outfit involved in sectarian killings.
Punjab police intelligence departments files mention Farooqi as active with the LJ's commander, Shakil Ahmed, who was later killed in a police encounter near Wehyari (Punjab). Soon after Farooqi's name appeared in these files, intelligence organizations, including Inter-Services Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau, studied his files, but failed to definitively link him to any organization. Several called him a stand-alone operator.
Subsequently, a high-profile official report allegedly based on investigations from several intelligence sources maintained that he was in contact with militants in South Waziristan, and that he also acted as a go-between for Khalid. The same report said that Farooqi was a lieutenant of the founder of jihadi outfits in Pakistan, Saifullah Akhtar, who was recently arrested in the United Arab Emirates and handed over to Pakistan.
Along with his alleged connection with Pearl's murder and the assassination attempts on Musharraf, in which junior army officers were also said to be involved, the heat was on Farooqi now.
Different proxy intelligence networks informed the security agencies about his presence in Faisalabad, Kamalia, Karachi and Waziristan. In a matter of a few months, about 50 raids were conducted to find him. According to Criminal Investigation Department records, on January 11 this year a raid was conducted on Farooqi's father-in-law's house, number 687/27 GB, Tehsil Kamalia district, Toba Tek Singh. Six people were arrested, including his brother-in-law Aqlak and cousin Attaul Manan.
After this raid, there is no record of any further ones, although police and security agencies from time to time claimed that they were near to arresting Farooqi. Asia Times Online reported on September 28 that Farooqi was probably arrested some months ago (In Pakistan, dead men tell no tales).
According to Asia Times Online sources, Farooqi's death did not play out as planned. The authorities wanted to keep the encounter - which could well have been staged - a secret until Musharraf returned from his overseas visit to the US, at which time Farooqi's body would be produced.
However, a Dubai-based television channel broke the news of the encounter just a few hours after it took place. The Ministry of Information immediately intervened and ordered all stations to remove the clip. But Reuters news agency had already picked up the item and distributed it all over the world, although quoting senior officials who would not confirm Farooqi's death.
By Tuesday morning the media were full of reports on Farooqi's death, and the establishment reacted by releasing what it claimed was Farooqi's computerized identity document. No one is questioning that Farooqi is the one who was killed in the shootout - it was him.
What is at issue is the identity card shown to the media. A number of significant details indicate that it could not have been Farooqi's legitimate one - from the fonts used in its design to the data it carried, and importantly, that it was computerized - such cards only came into force after Farooqi had been declared a wanted man. How, then, could he have obtained an official ID? It appears that having been forced into making a hasty announcement, the establishment did a poor job on faking the ID.
In the end, though, the officials produced their "high value" target, which pleases the US, and with the murder of Pearl and the assassination attempts on Musharraf pinned on Farooqi, awkward questions over these issues can be laid to rest.
Remember Farooqi's dying words," Oh God, you are the only one who sees."
(Mohammed Tahir, editor of Weekly Wajood, also contributed to this report.)
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online.
UN peacekeeping chief warns of attacks in Afghanistan as election date nears
Source: UN News Service / September 28, 2004
With only 11 days remaining before the people of Afghanistan go to the polls to elect a president for the first time in their history, the senior United Nations peacekeeping official today warned there may be many violent incidents around the country in the run-up as groups try to disrupt the electoral process.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that security forces have conducted special training exercises in recent days to test how they would respond to an attack.
Speaking after his briefing to the Security Council, Mr. Guéhenno said a combination of Afghan police, Afghan national army troops, members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and troops participating in the United States-led operation in the country are being stationed at key sites to protect polling sites and counting centres.
"We're very much aware that this is a tough environment. We know that it's not going to be an incident-free election," he said, adding that a dozen electoral workers have already been killed in attacks by groups opposed to the process.
Despite the threats, Mr. Guéhenno voiced hope for a high turnout. "The commitment of so many Afghans to [the electoral] process I think is the best reassurance that we can have."
Earlier, while briefing the Council, Mr. Guéhenno said tribal and community leaders were being used across the country, especially in the eastern, southeastern and southern provinces, to help determine local security arrangements for the elections.
These leaders were also used during Afghanistan's voter registration process earlier this year, and have been contacted because the security forces are thinly spread out across the country, Mr. Guéhenno told the Council.
More than 10 million Afghans, including at least 4 million women, have registered to vote in elections on 9 October to choose a president. National and local parliamentary polls are scheduled for next year.
Most of the logistical preparations have been completed, Mr. Guéhenno said, with the recruitment of 125,000 staff to run the polling centres nearly finished. All ballot boxes and printed materials have arrived in Afghanistan and are being transported from the capital, Kabul, to provincial offices for safekeeping until just before 9 October.
Mr. Guéhenno also said he was encouraged that the process of disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating ex-combatants has gathered speed in recent weeks, with more than 2,000 men disarming in the past 10 days alone. Almost half of all the estimated stock of operable and reparable heavy weapons in Afghanistan have now been handed in.
Earlier today, the Council also adopted its annual report to the General Assembly.
Russia electricity holding could enter Afghanistan – Chubais
MOSCOW, September 28 (Itar-Tass) - The Unified Energy Systems of Russian (EES Rossii) could enter Afghanistan’s energy system via Tajikistan, the chief of the national electricity utility, Anatoly Chubais , said.
He told a news conference on Tuesday that “this will be possible in case of the implementation of our projects in Tajikistan, to which three to ten years are given”.
Chubais stressed that “Afghanistan is even now receiving electric energy from Tajikistan that is in turn connected to Russia”.
“We are seriously analysing grid projects for Afghanistan,” he said.
Chubais did not rule out that the EES Rossii could join China’s energy system in prospect.
“At present this topic sounds hypothetically, but it could become a reason for serious talks in a year,” Chubais said at the conference Russia: Investment in the Economy of Growth.
“China is now present in discussions of our plans, even though Iran sounds in them far more often, which, one the one and, works in a synchronous regime with Azerbaijan and, on the other, with Armenia,” Chubais said.
He added that he could probably hold talks in Iran soon.
As for other operations of EES Rossii abroad, Chubais said “large- scale projects could appear in the nearest time in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan”.
He admitted that talks on the Russian company’s buying a 50 percent stake in Kazakhstan’s Ekibastuz hydroelectric station were difficult, but were nearing completion.
Besides, “we have got positive results in Georgia”.
“Despite the most acute political events, our business in this country is developing positively, and the Georgian leadership on the whole has been able to find a sound approach to solving this issues,”” Chubais said.
He expressed hope that the coming winter in Georgia, whose energy system EES Rossii owns, would go without failures of the energy and heat supply.
Agencies interrogating Pakistanis released from Afghanistan
Staff Report Daily Times
LAHORE: Intelligence agencies are interrogating 397 Pakistanis recently released from Afghanistan jails and Guantanamo Bay, Daily Times has learnt.
Sources said that 364 activists of various jihadi organisations, released from Afghanistan, and 33 from Guantunamo bay were being interrogated in Pakistani jails. Out of the 397, 197 are from Punjab, 84 from Sindh, 103 from the NWFP, one from Islamabad, five from Azad Kashmir and one from Balochistan. The sources said that intelligence agencies were investigating whether they had been in involved in terrorism or sectarian violence in the past.
“Their release will be decided on the basis of the investigation,” a law enforcement agency official said.
An intelligence officer said that most of the prisoners were involved in crime. “We are interrogating about their activities in the past and collecting information from district administrations.”
These prisoners went to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban against the United States and its allies in 2001. The Northern Alliance captured them from Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Kabul and Baghlan after the fall of the Taliban. The prisoners reportedly told investigators that the Northern Alliance had handed over many prisoners to Americans to get prizes from them. Afghan warlords also captured many Pakistani jihadis and demanded money for their releases.
Panglima perang Afghanistan lebih bahaya
Berita Harian - Wednesday Sep 29 7:51 AM SGT
KABUL: Ancaman sebenar proses pilihan raya Afghanistan sebenarnya disebarkan kumpulan panglima perang tempatan dan bukannya dari gerakan Taliban seperti dianggap sebelum ini, dakwa laporan Human Rights Watch, semalam.
I k l a n
Ia dibuat beberapa jam selepas Duta Amerika Syarikat (AS) Zalmay Khalilzad mengisytiharkan Aghanistan berjaya mematahkan kegiatan panglima perang dan dalam proses melucutkan senjata militia tempatan.
Negara itu bakal melalui pilihan raya pertamanya pada 9 Oktober depan.
“Di kebanyakan kawasan, rakyat Afghanistan memberitahu Human Rights Watch mereka paling takutkan pemimpin puak tempatan dan komander tentera tetapi bukan kelompok Taliban,” katanya dalam laporan bertajuk ‘The Rule of the Gun.’
Ia mendapati, komander tempatan yang meraih kekuasaan selepas gerakan Taliban disingkirkan pada 2001, mula menggunakan kekerasan dalam melaksanakan undang-undang.
Katanya, militia tempatan turut menggunakan ‘paksaan, ancaman dan mengamalkan rasuah untuk menggugat kegiatan politik serta menguasai proses pilihan raya.’
Menurut penulis laporan berkenaan, John Sifton, program pelucutan senjata Pertubuhan Bangsa-bangsa Bersatu secara umumnya gagal kerana komander tempatan di kebanyakan daerah masih memperoleh senjata.
“Di Zabul dan Kunar, Taliban tetap menjadi ancaman utama tetapi di kebanyakan kawasan lain rakyat Afghanistan berkata, panglima perang penghalang utama proses demokrasi dan hak kemanusiaan,” katanya.
Berikutan jumlah askar Amerika Syarikat seramai 18,200 dan 8,000 pengaman NATO tidak mencukupi untuk mengawal 25,000 pusat undian, kebanyakan kawalan keselamatan akan dilakukan polis yang mempunyai hubungan dengan komander itu.
“Kerana kekurangan berkenaan, pelan keselamatan sedia ada untuk pilihan raya nanti terpaksa membabitkan panglima perang atau pasukan tempatan untuk mengawal pusat undian walaupun mereka digeruni rakyat Afghanistan.
“Pengundi di kebanyakan kawasan kampung sudah diberitahu panglima atau komander itu cara untuk mengundi dan disebabkan mereka tidak memahami proses demokratik dan ditindas secara politik, kemungkinan besar mereka akan akur,” katanya.
Sementara itu, penganalisis Kumpulan Krisis Antarabangsa, Vikram Parekh berkata kesulitan setiap undi mungkin dicabuli. – AFP
UNHCR backs Afghan information mission to Pakistan
CHAMAN, Pakistan, Sept 29 (UNHCR) – If Afghan refugees are reluctant to go home, then bring home to the refugees.
That was the philosophy at work this month when a delegation from Afghanistan arrived in Pakistan's Balochistan province to seek out refugees who had fled Badghis province and have so far not joined the millions of other Afghans returning home.
"This is a good initiative on behalf of the Afghan government and UNHCR," said Zabi-Ullah, the director of the Rural Rehabilitation and Development Programme in the province located in the far north-west of Afghanistan.
"We know that the problems that built up in Afghanistan through 25 years of war and destruction cannot be solved in a day," he said. "But as a confidence-building measure, this information sharing will help Afghan refugees to understand what the government is doing in their home areas with the help of other countries and international aid agencies."
The team from the Badghis Return Task Force contained representatives of the Afghan government, the provincial administration and members of the public. The UN refugee agency encouraged and facilitated the project but did not have a representative in the delegation, preferring that refugees hear directly from their countrymen.
The visit, targeted at refugees in Balochistan, followed one earlier this year to Iran by a team from Afghanistan's Bamyan province. A more extensive visit to refugees in Pakistan by a team from the Return Commission Working Group is planned for later this year.
"The refugees that we met were eager to hear about the latest happenings in their province, and whatever information we had, we shared with them," said Abdul Hameed, Director of Repatriation and Rehabilitation in Badghis. "We told them that things are moving in a positive direction and, God willing, Afghanistan will soon be back on its feet."
However, the delegation conceded that some of the refugees' concerns were legitimate and it would take time before they felt confident to return to their original homes. Difficult issues include land distribution that the Afghan government is not yet ready to address and the future livelihood of Kuchis, the nomadic Afghan population that has seen its traditional way of life destroyed by continuing drought.
UNHCR has conducted extensive information campaigns since the start of the voluntary repatriation programme in March 2002 to ensure that the millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran know about conditions in their homeland. A network of UNHCR staff in Afghanistan compiles data that is distributed by UNHCR staff in the neighbouring countries, both in writing and through radio broadcasts.
But there is nothing better than first-hand information. UNHCR has been regularly assisting delegations of refugees to visit Afghanistan to see conditions for themselves and now is encouraging the visits by Afghans to the refugees in the host countries.
The Afghan team arrived as UNHCR was in the process of closing the four "new" camps at Chaman that had been set up on the border to house refugees from the 2001 war in Afghanistan. Many refugees originally from Badghis in those camps had already dispersed to "old" camps elsewhere in Balochistan, where UNHCR is continuing education, health, water and sanitation assistance. Others had repatriated, but mainly to Helmand province in the south rather than to their original homes.
"As the representative of the local people of my district, I told our brothers that they were welcome to repatriate whenever they intend to," said Najam Uddin, who came on behalf of the people of Maqqur district in Badghis. "Things are gradually returning to normal but we also agreed with them that everything that they expect to be in perfect condition is not there."
"However, even then there have been Afghan refugees returning to the area, so if they come we will welcome them open heartedly," he said.
UNHCR offers assistance to any Afghan in Pakistan or Iran wishing to return under a voluntary repatriation programme that runs until March 2006 in Pakistan. So far, of the 2.26 million Afghans UNHCR has assisted to leave Pakistan, 4,368 were from distant Badghis. A further 3,125 Badghis residents were among the more than one million Afghans to go home from Iran since 2002.
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