Pakistan may hand over arrested Taliban suspects to Afghanistan
Sun Jan 30, 5:12 AM ET
QUETTA, Pakistan (AFP) - Senior former Taliban officials arrested in Pakistan and suspected of links to Al-Qaeda will be handed over to Afghanistan if nothing can be proved against them, police said.
"If nothing is proved against them except living without any legal documents in Pakistan, they will be handed over to the Afghan government for being Afghan nationals," Quetta police chief Pervez Rafi Bhatti told AFP on Sunday.
The 17 Afghan suspects were picked up by police in a swoop Thursday on hideouts in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province which borders Afghanistan and Iran.
"The suspects are being questioned about their links to the Al-Qaeda network," Bhatti said.
Investigators have identified one detainee as Mullah Abdur Razzak but on Sunday still could not confirm whether he is the former Afghan interior minister of the same name during the Taliban's rule.
The former deputy governor of southern Helmand province, Mullah Khush Dil, and ex-Kabul police chief Mullah Ibrahim were also among the arrested group.
The hardline Taliban militia sprang up from religious schools in Baluchistan in the early 1990s and seized control of much of Afghanistan where they established their ultra-orthodox rule in 1996.
Pakistan formerly supported the Taliban but abandoned them and joined a US-led coalition against terrorism which ousted the militia from power in late 2001 for failing to surrender Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Pakistan has captured more than 600 Al-Qaeda suspects since late 2001 but has not given figures for the number of Taliban fighters it holds.
Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri are believed to be hiding in the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but have avoided a hunt by thousands of Pakistani and US troops.
Earlier this month the US embassy in Pakistan advertised rewards in a local newspaper for information leading to the capture of 14 top militants including bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri and Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Police got 'useful' information from detained Taliban commanders, official says
Associated Press / January 30, 2005
Police have gleaned "useful" information from suspected members of Afghanistan's Taliban militia who were arrested in southwestern Pakistani and are being interrogated for clues about Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, an official said Sunday.
Acting on a tip, police raided several homes in Quetta late Thursday and captured as many as 23 Afghan nationals on suspicion of links with the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Seventeen of the arrested men were allegedly members of the Taliban militia. A U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in late 2001 for harboring terrorists.
Pervez Rafi Bhatti, chief of police in Quetta, said Sunday that investigators have "got useful information" from the Taliban suspects.
He would not give further details.
"We will hand them over to the Afghan government after we complete our investigation," Bhatti said.
He said six suspects were released late Saturday after questioning proved they were Pakistanis with no links with the Taliban.
A security official in Quetta, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Saturday that the Taliban suspects were being interrogated to know where Omar was hiding.
Among the suspects are former Taliban commanders including Mohammed Nabi, Aga Mohammed, Mufti Rehmatullah and Abdur Razzaq, the official said.
The whereabouts of Omar, like Osama bin Laden, remain unknown. Afghan and U.S. officials say they could be holed up in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Mullah Hakim Latifi _ who claims he speaks for the Taliban _ denied Friday that any leaders had been arrested in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan.
UN anti-drugs chief calls for conditional aid to Afghanistan
Sun Jan 30, 7:49 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - International aid to Afghanistan should be made conditional on the country showing real results and progress in the fight against opium production, UN anti-drugs chief Antonio Maria Costa said in an interview with AFP.
"I want to introduce and I want the international financial lenders to introduce a negative pledge in their lending ... so that the resources will be made available (only) if there is a pledge that no opium will be cultivated in the district, in the village, in the province," Costa said Saturday.
Costa, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said under such a policy "the programs can come to an end if indeed the evils of trade and the evils of cultivations are not curtailed."
He arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday for a four-day visit including talks with President Hamid Karzai.
His visit comes after Afghan opium production boomed in 2004, rising 64 percent on already high yields.
This initiative is "new, it has not been considered so far", he said, explaining that under the measure, local administrations would have to sign a contract with lending institutions agreeing to combat the cultivation of opium poppies.
If poppy production did not fall, the contracts would stipulate that assistance could be cut off, he said.
"I am not asking bankers to become cops but to support what cops are doing," he said, adding that his proposal had received favorable remarks from international lenders.
Afghanistan is largely dependent on foreign assistance in its efforts to rebuild after more than a quarter century of conflict.
But in parallel, 60 percent of its economy is dependent on drug production and the country has become, according to the UN, a "narco-economy".
In 2004, Afghanistan accounted for 87 percent of world opium production and the majority of heroin consumed in Europe.
President Karzai announced in December that the anti-drugs campaign would be the main priority of his government alongside the fight against terrorism.
The United States has also decided to make drug eradication a priority, promising 780 million dollars to help Afghanistan combat drugs in 2005.
Costa said drugs was the main threat facing Afghanistan, not the insurgency by remnants of the ousted Taliban regime.
"Everybody recognises that the drug threat is the major threat being faced by the country, not anymore the insurgency," he said.
But debate over how best to eradicate opium is far from over. The defined strategy seems to favour the destruction of the poppy crops, repression and aid for the farmers.
The new Afghan minister in charge of the fight against drugs, Habibullah Qaderi, however recently told AFP that much more funds were to be devoted to assisting farmers, calling on the countries which were victims of the drug trade, in particular Europe and Iran, to contribute more.
Some non-governmental organisations fear too fast a pace of eradication of poppy crops could cause instability. They favour a strategy more centered on the development of alternative means of subsistence.
Costa, for his part, estimated that a "window of opportunity" of eradication existed in the next couple of months when it would be too late for farmers to replant destroyed poppy crops for an opium harvest this year.
"I cannot accept the notion that unless money is provided for the support of farmers, the illegal activities will continue... this is a blackmail that we cannot accept," he said.
"We need indeed to combine the two exercises (eradication and alternative livelihood)," he said, adding that support for farmers would be essential in Afghanistan, "one of the poorest countries of the world".
Costa said he had also asked for details of the various aid programmes, explaining that not all worked.
"There are initiatives which I don't understand and initiatives which are effective."
An effective eradication programme would not inevitably destabilise the country in the run up to parliamentary elections due in spring or summer this year, he said, as farmers lay in stores to enable them to survive the loss of a harvest.
"Today, there is so much drugs around that they don't care if they lose the crop."
Afghan authorities in new push to collect U.S.-made Stinger missiles
January 30, 2005 Associated Press
Authorities are launching a new push to collect U.S.-made Stinger missiles from Afghanistan, a weapon the United States is trying to keep out of the hands of terrorists and governments like Iran, an Afghan official said Sunday.
The Afghan intelligence service is offering to buy the anti-aircraft missiles for an undisclosed sum, taking up a CIA program to recover weapons given to Islamic fundamentalists who battled Soviet troops alongside Osama bin Laden in the 1980s.
Hussein Fakhri, a senior intelligence official, confirmed a report of the offer on Afghan state television but declined to elaborate.
The American spy agency supplied an estimated 2,000 Stingers to Afghan mujahideen rebels, who put the heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles to deadly use against Soviet helicopters and transport planes.
But since the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the United States has been trying to buy back unused missiles for fear terrorist organizations or governments such as Iran could get hold of a weapon equally effective against civilian jetliners.
It is unclear how many remain unaccounted for, despite cash offers which reportedly reached as high as US$150,000 (Â€115,000) each.
Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, said authorities had recovered four Stingers as well as other surface-to-air missiles from the south and east under a U.N.-sponsored disarmament program that was launched after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
"Stingers are valuable and important weapons. Nobody gives up such a weapon easily," he told The Associated Press.
Rick Grant, a U.N. spokesman, confirmed that the disarmament program had directed several militia commanders with Stingers toward American officials.
"We've come across commanders who've handed in their SAM-7s and their tanks but were asking, in essence: 'Where am I going to sell my Stingers?'" Grant told AP.
Maj. Mark McCann, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, declined to comment on the buyback offer. "It's not our program."
Some of the Stingers distributed in Afghanistan went to Islamic radicals such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister currently accused of sponsoring attacks on U.S. and government forces in Afghanistan.
Dozens also reportedly fell into the hands of the Taliban in the 1990s, with others smuggled as far afield as Sri Lanka and the Balkans as well as to Iran.
While American pilots reported coming under fire from surface-to-air missiles in the war which ousted the hardline militia in 2001, no aircraft _ military or commercial _ were shot down with Stingers then or since.
According to the Afghan TV report, the intelligence service plans a poster campaign to publicize the effort to collect the missiles. Artists have a week to submit their designs, with the winner to receive a prize of 100,000 Afghanis (US$2,000; Â€1,500) _ a considerable sum in impoverished Afghanistan.
Farooq Faryad, a professional artist in the Afghan capital, said he was searching desperately for a picture of a Stinger to prepare his entry.
"I've never seen one," said Faryad, who is also head of the art department at Kabul University. "Then I'll need a couple of days to come up with a really good idea."
Afghan government wants direct control of aid money
By Zainab Mohammadi
KABUL -- Pajhwok Afghan News 01/30/2005 - The Afghan government would prefer to see international donors fund Afghanistan's development directly through the government rather than through the NGOs who currently receive a lion's share of the international aid.
Speaking to Pazhwok Afghanistan's new Finance Minister Anwar ul Haq Ahadi said "Afghanistan's government would prefer to receive most of the aid money through the national budget". The Minister said only $1,400 million out of $ 4,800 total international aid was handed over directly to the government.
Explaining the reason behind the decision to channel funds through NGOs Hamid Faroqi, professor of the economics faculty at Kabul University said donor countries had adopted this approach at the Tokyo Conference in January 2002 because the Afghan government did not have the capacity to use the money at that time.
Head of a donor agency in Afghanistan who requested anonymity told Pajhwok: "Donors can dominate the NGOs and their work and can control them". He also added that the government needed to take many more steps until it had developed the capacity to manage donor money.
However, not all donors feel the same way. The World Bank, one of the biggest donor agencies in developing countries, has granted most of its money directly to the government. Abdul Rauf Zia, a spokesman for the World Bank in Kabul, said the organization had given $750 million to the Afghan government since 2002.
He said it was World Bank policy to directly fund governments which were accountable and spent money in the right manner. "The (Afghan) government has developed the capability of implementing projects in various fields in the last two years and it is getting better day by day," Zia said.
Prof. Faroqi however was not sure that the government was capable of assuming the responsibility of donor money as yet. In order to have an effective role, Faroqi said, the government needed to upgrade its economic potential and working capabilities.
"NGOs comes into existence when the government is not able to work like in the war. When it acquires the capacity there is no need for NGOs to work," Professor Faroqi noted, but argued that the private sectors could play an even better role than NGOs in this regard.
Afghan Drug Traffickers May Face International Arrest Warrants
Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Afghan drug traffickers should face international arrest warrants in order to support the government's moves to combat drug production in the country, the world's biggest opium producer, the United Nations said.
``2005 should mark the beginning of achievements in counter- narcotics,'' Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said yesterday in Kabul, according to a statement on the UN Web site. ``Afghanistan is taking the right measures on eradication of poppy fields.''
Costa proposed measures that will allow international arrest warrants to be issued for wanted Afghan drug traffickers when he met President Hamid Karzai yesterday, the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan said on its Web site without giving any details.
Poppy cultivation, the main engine of economic growth in Afghanistan, increased 64 percent in 2004, the UN said in a report last month. The opium poppy is the raw ingredient in producing heroin. Karzai, who won the Oct. 9 election, said at his inauguration last month the war on drug trafficking is a priority for his government.
``It is encouraging to see that the magnitude and gravity of the drug problem, which threatens stability and development in the country and beyond, is recognized by all of Afghanistan's partners,'' Costa said, according to the statement.
Afghanistan last month created its first unit that will be part of a national task force to fight drug trafficking, Agence France-Presse reported at the time.
The group includes 10 police investigators, seven prosecutors, three judges and four prison officers, the news agency said. The full task force, due to be operating this year, will involve 85 people, including 15 judges, AFP reported.
The UN is operating a $25 million, five-year project aimed at ending the dependence of Afghan farmers on cultivating the opium poppy.
Afghan opium exports are worth $2.8 billion, the Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report in November. The Afghan government estimates it needs $27.5 billion over the next seven years to help rebuild and curb farmer's dependence on growing opium poppies. The International Monetary Fund said the illicit drug revenue is equivalent to about 60 percent of the country's non-drug gross domestic product.
Security in Afghanistan has improved since the country held its presidential election. The Afghan National Army, created since 2001, has more than 21,000 soldiers, 17,800 of them trained and 3,400 still in training, the U.S. military said earlier his month. The national police force will have 37,000 officers by April, an increase from 32,000 personnel now serving, the UN said in a report this month.
Afghanistan is scheduled to hold parliamentary and local elections between April 21 and May 21.
At least five people were killed and nine wounded when their vehicle ran over a landmine yesterday near the southern city of Kandahar, AFP reported, citing Khaleeq Pashtun, a provincial government spokesman. He blamed members of the Taliban militia for the attack. The Taliban were ousted in December 2001 in the U.S.- led war on terrorism.
Landmine blasts kill two in Afghanistan
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Two separate landmine blasts in the south and east of Afghanistan killed at least two people and injured 15 others, police officials said.
Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported that two men were killed by a landmine in the eastern Kunar province on the highway that leads to the city of Jalalabad.
It quoted Kunar police chief Matiullah Khan as saying it was possible the two were killed by the explosion while trying to plant the mine.
Separately, a small bus carrying civilians hit a landmine in Arghandab district of Kandahar province, General Salim Khan, a senior police official for Kandahar city, said.
He said at least 15 people were in the bus when it hit the landmine and the injured were rushed to a hospital in Kandahar city. He said he did not know how many were killed.
The bus was travelling from Uruzgan province where suspected members from the ousted Taliban government usually target Afghan and US-led forces with roadside bombs.
The incident comes a day after nine Afghan soldiers were killed in the Spin Boldak area of Kandahar by a mine planted by Taliban members.
Taliban claims credit for mine attacks killing nine
AP , via The Taipei Times KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN Monday, Jan 31, 2005,Page 5
Advertising Nine Afghan soldiers died and another was seriously wounded when a mine exploded near their vehicle as they traveled close to the Pakistani border, an Afghan commander said.
A spokesman for the Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, one of the bloodiest in months.
Meanwhile, another mine reportedly wounded four Afghans working for a US security firm in eastern Afghanistan. The 10 soldiers from a border guard unit were aboard a pickup truck when it struck the land mine Saturday on a road near Spinboldak, a frontier town in southern Kandahar province, General Abdul Raziq Khan, the unit's commander, said.
The only survivor, an officer called Qadir Bhai, was seriously wounded and taken to a nearby French special forces base for treatment, Khan said. He said the mine was freshly laid and blamed Taliban militants for the attack.
"They are coming over the border from Pakistan to carry out these attacks," he said in a telephone interview from Spinboldak.
Mullah Abdul Hakim Latifi, a man who regularly claims to speak for the Taliban, said its members detonated the mine by remote control and then opened fire on the stricken soldiers.
He claimed 11 troops were killed and vowed the hardline militia would continue to attack Afghan and US forces.
The four Afghans were wounded on Thursday when a mine exploded near their vehicle in Chawkay district of Kunar province, Interior Ministery spokesman Latfullah Mashal said.
Mashal said the men were working for a US contractor called USPI, which provides security for a Turkish construction company repairing the province's main road. A Turkish man working on the road was abducted and killed last month.
US and Afghan security forces are in the midst of a winter-long operation supposed to keep militants on the defensive and prevent them from preparing major violence against Afghan parliamentary elections slated for the spring.
Fate of eight Pakistanis held in Afghanistan unclear
By Rahimullah Yusufzai The News International, Pakistan
PESHAWAR: The Authorities in Islamabad were unable to confirm reports that eight Pakistanis arrested recently by Afghan troops in the eastern Kunar province had been handed over to the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Earlier, a senior Afghan government official said on condition of anonymity in Kabul that the men had been delivered to the US-led coalition forces. The News had sought comments from the Afghan defence ministry about the fate of the eight Pakistanis who were reportedly caught after illegally entering Afghanistan.
The identity of the eight men and their motives for travelling to Afghanistan are unclear. Relevant Pakistan government officials approached in Islamabad said they could not confirm reports about the handing over of the arrested Pakistanis to the coalition forces.
The issue first came to light when Gen Zahir Azimi, spokesman of Afghanistan’s defence ministry, claimed some days ago that eight Pakistanis in civilian clothes were caught by Afghan troops in Kunar province. He was also quoted as saying that the men were soldiers.
However, Gen Azimi clarified in Kabul that he was misquoted. He maintained that he had never said that the arrested men were soldiers. But he reiterated that the men carried documents related to the military and possessed pictures of soldiers.
On its part, the Pakistan government asked its ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand in Kabul to collect details about the incident. Afghanistan’s new defence minister Gen Rahim Wardak reportedly told Mohmand that he was unaware of any such arrests in Kunar.
The Pakistan Army formations in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) bordering Afghanistan were also asked whether any of their soldiers were missing. The reply was that no Pakistani soldier in that area was missing.
Subsequently, it was felt that the arrested Pakistanis could be civilians. In the past also, Afghan authorities arrested some Pakistanis, mostly in the border areas, and claims were made that the men were soldiers. A number of woodcutters from Swat and Dir districts and Bajaur tribal agency doing seasonal work in Kunar were also arrested last year and shifted to Kabul’s notorious Pule Charkhi jail.
Pakistani diplomats in Afghanistan have calculated that 49 Pakistanis are still being held in Pul-e-Charkhi and other Afghan prisons. Another unspecified number of Pakistanis are in custody of Afghan warlords in their private jails. Over 900 Pakistanis held in Afghanistan since late 2001 have already been released and are now back home. Most had gone there in response to the call for "Jihad" by the Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) leader Maulana Sufi Mohammad to fight alongside the Taliban against the Northern Alliance and the US forces.
Musharraf not a long-term ally of America: think tank
By Khalid Hasan Daily Times (Pakistan)
WASHINGTON: The Musharraf regime is “unlikely to evolve into a long-term ally in the war on terrorism,” though the United States should seek to “prevent Pakistan from descending into chaos in the short term,” according to the Cato Institute, a leading liberal think tank.
The Institute set up in 1977 to pursue libertarian values issues a handbook every year for the consideration of Congress and the administration. In its section on South Asia, Cato urges the US to vigorously pursue Al Qaeda and Taliban elements inside Pakistan’s territory - “preferably” in cooperation with the Musharraf government - mobilise international support to contain Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation and hold it accountable for allowing the export of nuclear military technology, and focus on India as a potential long-term military and economic partner of the United States in the region.
Quoting the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations on Pakistan that it described as “hard choices,” Cato said the United States should commit itself to a period of sustained aid, including military assistance, to Pakistan, but only on condition that Gen Pervez Musharraf proves that he stands for ‘‘enlightened moderation’’ by confronting Islamic extremism, curbing nuclear proliferation, and paving the way for the return to democracy.
Cato said the “fundamental conundrum” the United States has faced in its dealings with Pakistan both before and after 9/11 lies in the recognition that Islamabad’s pre-9/11 alliance with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and its strong ties to radical Islamic terrorist groups helped to create the environment that gave birth to Al Qaeda.
However, Cato noted that the 9/11 Commission report portrays Pakistan as “dramatically different” than it was before 9/11. The report implies that the decision by Musharraf to sever his country’s links to the Taliban and provide logistical support for the US invasion of Afghanistan marked a dramatic reversal in Pakistan’s approach to radical Islamic terrorism.
Cato disagreed with the commission’s conclusion that Pakistan has been evolving into a reliable ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, saying, “that conclusion is flawed. Pakistan is not a dependably effective strategic partner. The decision by Musharraf to abandon the Taliban after 9/11 reflected not a strategic choice but a tactical one. It was based on the clear recognition that anything less than full cooperation with the United States would result in punishing American military retaliation, including the invasion of parts of Pakistan, and possibly the overthrow of the Musharraf government. At a minimum, the refusal by Pakistan to back the American invasion of Afghanistan would have led to the total diplomatic and economic isolation of the regime, which could have played into the hands of rival India in its bid for regional hegemony.”
Cato said that the assumption that Pakistan has severed its ties with those who advocate a radical Islamic agenda is “based more on the rhetoric emanating from Islamabad than on the policy steps taken there since 9/11”. Referring to what the commission called “an extraordinary public essay” by Gen Musharraf, in which he called on Muslims to adopt a policy of “enlightened moderation,” to shun militancy and extremism, to seek to resolve disputes with “justice,” and to help “better the Muslim world,” Cato pointed out the this was in contrast to the fact that there are scores of Al Qaeda terrorists, many Taliban fighters and perhaps Osama Bin Laden himself, in Pakistan.
Cato said Pakistan had come frighteningly close to war with India over Kashmir and was the favourite stomping ground of terrorist groups. “Policymakers should focus on what attracts terrorists to Pakistan. In many respects, it is a ‘failed state’, corruption is widespread, the government is ineffective, and there is immense support among the general public and the elites for radical Islamic causes. Motivated by ideology and cheap tuition, millions of Pakistani families send their children to religious schools, or madrassas, which have become incubators for anti-Western propaganda that contributes to the terrorist problem.”
According to Cato, radical Islamism is backed not only by leaders of large political parties and by the tribes on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but the Pakistan Army and intelligence services, in particular, are at best ambivalent about confronting Islamic extremists.
“Meanwhile, Islamic terrorists have found refuge in Pakistan’s un-policed regions, which now provide both a base of operations against US forces in Afghanistan and a safe haven for planning attacks against Americans inside the United States. Widespread support for extremist Islam in Pakistan may explain why many of the Pakistani government’s early efforts to pursue Al Qaeda members hiding along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border failed. That sentiment may also explain why Musharraf’s government refused to vigorously pursue former Taliban and Islamic militants gathered in tribal, semiautonomous regions of Pakistan.”
Cato believes that the “disappointing results” of Pakistan’s early military offensives raise doubts about Gen Musharraf’s ability to challenge the power of the local tribal leaders in Waziristan. Despite the military pressure and the financial rewards offered by the United States, many Pakistanis continued to shelter the militants, including foreigners who operate there. At the same time, two assassination attempts on Gen Musharraf in December 2003 seemed to have mobilised the president to take action. The capture of several Al Qaeda operatives during the summer of 2004 indicated a growing willingness on Gen Musharraf’s part to pursue Al Qaeda terrorists.
Cato referred to Pakistan’s “uneven record” in pursuing Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and “troubling revelations” about Dr AQ Khan. It said the official explanation that it was a “rogue operation” were not believed by the people in Pakistan. “The Khan network may also have been a way for the military and intelligence services to gain access to funds for covert operations in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and elsewhere. Musharraf’s decision to pardon Khan immediately following the revelations about his activities raises serious questions about Pakistan’s commitment to non-proliferation. It also calls into question the security of Pakistan’s own nuclear military programme and underlines concerns that Pakistan’s nuclear secrets could fall into the hands of Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists.” Cato claimed that throughout 2003 and 2004, the Bush administration agreed under pressure from Islamabad not to dispatch American and British forces to the tribal areas inside Pakistan where senior Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders were believed to be hiding. Also troubling was the Bush administration’s decision to designate Pakistan a “major non-NATO ally”. Cato said American officials defend their support for Pakistan by stressing that US policy is driven by the short-term goals of the war on terrorism and also that Gen Musharraf’s government may present the only realistic chance to reach an agreement over Kashmir.
According to the think tank, “US policymakers should consider an alternate interpretation of Pakistan’s behaviour. Since 9/11, Musharraf has been opportunistic. He responded to political and military pressure from the United States by ending his country’s alliance with the Taliban and other radical Islamic groups, taking steps to liberalise his country’s political and economic system, and opening the road to an accord with India over Kashmir. But there are no signs that Musharraf and his political and military allies have made a strategic choice to ally themselves with US long-term goals in the war on terrorism by destroying the political and military infrastructure of the radical and violent anti-American Islamic groups in Pakistan. It is highly probable that Musharraf is not strong enough to do so. From that perspective, the partnership with the United States and Musharraf’s willingness to negotiate with India over Kashmir are nothing more than short-term moves aimed at winning US assistance and preventing India from emerging as Washington’s main ally in the region. If this alternate interpretation is correct, the current American relationship with Pakistan is, at best, a short-term alliance of necessity. Over the medium and long term, US policymakers should distance themselves from Musharraf’s regime, seek out ways to cultivate liberal secular reforms in Pakistan, and engage in more constructive relations with India.”
Getting Girls Back to School in Afghanistan
By Denise Pritchard, CARE USA (press release), GA CARE Staff
Girls gain confidence and improve their public speaking skills in CARE's fast-track classes. (©2002 CARE/Jason Sangster)
KABUL, Afghanistan - Farzana is the principal of Sha Shaheed School — for girls who missed years of their education during the the Taliban’s rule. The school is one of nine supported by CARE's "out of school" girls program that provides fast-track education for girls by teaching two years in one.
During the Taliban years, Farzana and her family fled to Pakistan, where she was able to work. However, after September 11, her family moved back to Kabul and Farzana was able to keep working. She’s 28 years old and single, which is unusual for a woman her age in Afghanistan, and she lives with her father. While her brothers and sisters are all married, she tells us that her father is open minded and encourages her to pursue her career.
The Sha Shaheed School teaches 360 girls who come in six days a week, for either morning or afternoon classes. Most of the girls are between 10-14 years old and were in school before Taliban. But they had to stop going to school for five years, when the Taliban didn’t allow girls to be educated. These girls are now much older that the other students in their grade, and CARE aims to provide a fast-track education so they can rejoin the school system at the appropriate age.
Mina is one of these students. She’s 15 years old, but she's only in the third grade because, under the Taliban, she wasn’t allowed to go to school. Now Mina and her peers are making up the lost years of school.
Mina has never been to school before. Under the Taliban, she had to stay home and care for her mother, who is sick, and do all the household chores. "I was so bored," Mina says, "and I didn’t have very much time to learn, even though sometimes my sisters would teach me a little bit." Mina’s three sisters and her younger brother have also gone back to school.
Mina’s family is Pashtun, the ethnic majority in southern Afghanistan, and Pashtun families are often more conservative. Under the Taliban, Mina wasn’t even allowed to go outside the house, and she didn’t have any friends — just her sisters. "I love coming to school to be with the other girls and to learn. My favorite subjects are math and English," Mina says enthusiastically.
Some parents are nervous about sending their girls to schoolbecause it goes against the norm of the past several years. But Farzana reminds them that in the Koran it says men and women should be educated equally. She also encourages them to talk to other parents who have their children in the school and to see how happy the girls are here. After this little bit of encouragement, most of the parents are very supportive of the school.
Mina’s parents are happy she’s in school and really encourage her. They know her life will be easier if she is educated. Mina is still a bit worried that she’ll be much older than the other girls in public school when she finishes sixth grade at this school and is reintegrated into the public system. But, she really wants to continue her education and hopes to become a doctor.
As an Afghan woman, Farzana says she’s proud to be helping girls gain an education. She says sheworks for all Afghan women. "This school wouldn’t be running without CARE, and these girls wouldn’t be in school" says Farzana. "Most of their parents probably wouldn’t let them go to school at all because they were too old to be with the young kids in the other grades. But now their parents are happy thattheir daughters have such an opportunity."
New call for justice in Afghanistan
The New York Times 01/30/2005 By Carlotta Gall
Kabul - The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission urged President Hamid Karzai on Saturday to bring war criminals to justice after a long era of human rights abuses.
Sima Samar, the chairwoman of the Afghan commission, and Louise Arbour, U. N. rights commissioner, presented Karzai with a national survey and recommendations on dealing with past war crimes and human rights abuses. The commission concluded that more than 70 percent of Afghans had suffered a loss or injury over the last two decades of war and that Afghans urgently wanted to see war criminals brought to justice.
"Of central importance is the need to address past and present human rights violations so as to ensure that those responsible for egregious abuses do not succeed in wielding power," Arbour told Karzai and others at a ceremony at the presidential palace.
She called for a "courageous system of justice" to redress wrongs and create a stable foundation for Afghan society.
The report presented to Karzai recommends that he take actions symbolic and substantive to address the abuses of the past, including building monuments, supporting criminal investigations and prosecutions, and arranging for reparations for the victims, as well as vetting public officials to keep perpetrators of abuse out of power.
The comments of the human rights officials, and the survey results, go against the current policy of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan and Karzai's own government, which have for the last three years avoided pursuing suspects in war crimes in the interest of national stability. The United Nations, which has commissioned a compilation of human rights abuses in Afghanistan over the last 25 years, has repeatedly delayed the publication of the report, apparently, diplomats in Kabul said, for fear of doing damage to the fragile political process, since many accused of war crimes remain in powerful positions around the country.
Samar, whose husband and his three brothers were arrested and executed during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, said her conclusion is that Afghans want urgently to see justice carried out, in the belief that it will contribute to stability, rather than undermine it. While that might not be easy, she said, the president would have the support of the people to start the effort. "Without justice, we cannot have long-term peace and stability and national unity," she said.
Afghans have suffered so many abuses under various governments that many say they see the last two decades as a seamless era of terror. Under the communists, thousands disappeared into prisons. In 10 years of Soviet occupation, which ended in 1989, 1 million died and 5 million -- a third of the population -- were forced to flee Afghanistan as villages across the country were indiscriminately bombed. The period after the Soviet occupation was a lawless time of factional fighting that destroyed many towns and much of Kabul, the capital, killing tens of thousands more people. The Taliban followed, instituting a repressive fundamentalist rule, and waging war against its opponents for seven years.
The survey, "A Call for Justice," was conducted over eight months. It is the first broad consultation with the Afghan people about what they want to do now about the suffering they experienced. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission asked more than 6,000 people, using questionnaires and focus groups, whether they had suffered and how, and what form of justice they wanted, if any.
The commission reported finding a very high level of human rights violations and described them as "staggering statistics in comparison to any other conflict in the world." Of the 2,000 people who joined focus group discussions, 500 said they had experienced a death among relatives, 400 said someone in their immediate family had been tortured or detained, and 69 percent considered themselves victims of human rights violations over the last 23 years of violence.
Among the 4,151 questioned in the survey, 76.4 percent said they wanted to see war criminals brought to justice now or within five years, and 90 percent wanted the government to go beyond enforcing typical criminal justice and take actions like investigating public officials and removing perpetrators from office, setting up a system for researching and recording what happened in the previous eras and arranging for reparations for the victims.
Although Karzai has tried to include warlords and other powerful players in his government, and is pursuing a policy to bring former Taliban members into the fold to achieve stability, the commission report says that only holding people accountable for past crimes will bring lasting stability and peace.
Tanker carrying oil for US forces attacked near Pak-Afghan border
ISLAMABAD, Jan. 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Unidentified men Sunday attacked a tanker carrying oil from southwestern Pakistan to US forces in Afghanistan, causing damage to the vehicle but there was no casualties, according to independent News Network International.
The tanker was hit by a home-made bomb at Kuchlak town in Balochistan province but no one was hurt, witnesses were quoted assaying.
This was the second incident involving tankers in two days after an oil tanker carrying oil for coalition forces in Afghanistan exploded in Khyber Agency, which borders Afghanistan's eastern Ningrahar province.
In Sunday's incident, unidentified attackers stopped the tanker on the main road between Queeta, the capital of Balochistan and the border town of Chaman, and planted the bomb under the tanker and exploded it.
The explosion damaged the engine of the vehicle.
Oil tankers are loaded in the southern port city of Karachi from where oil is routinely shipped to Kandahar for US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Famed NY tabla player Suphala jams with local musicians in an Afghan first
Kabul, January 29, 2004 - The unassuming building in the small street off Salang Watt took centre stage last Thursday night, as a throng of people streamed through its doors and rows of cars banked up precariously on the icy road.
Over 200 spectators packed into the newly built Concert Hall of the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society, an Afghan social organization, to hear the much anticipated music of Suphala, a remarkable young tabla player of Indian-American heritage. The invitation only concert was the first of its kind to be held in post-Taliban Afghanistan, creating a buzz of excitement amongst the Afghan and foreign audience.
“It is great to see someone famous in the West come to Afghanistan and perform with our own talented musicians. It just goes to show how far Afghanistan has come and how music can play an important role in bridging the gap between Afghanistan and the rest of the world,” said Sameh, an enthusiastic onlooker.
Suphala, having begun her Indian classical training under the greatest tabla masters, the late Ustad Allarakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain, proved a great attraction to Afghanistan where the origins of the tabla date back centuries and plays an essential part of traditional Afghan music.
But the star of the show wasn’t Suphala alone. An array of Afghan tabla players ‘jammed’ with the young musician, including rhubab player Ustad Ghulam Hussein, tabla-player Ustad Wali, Dilruba player Ustad Amruddin, and the highly esteemed Ustad Asif, who is well know in Afghanistan through his musical association with the late Ahmad Zahir. The result was an eclectic mix of raw tabla sound, classical rhubab and the modern synthesizer.
The audience was brought back to 2005 in the second half when Suphala performed with supporting artist and electric guitarist Harper Simon, son of Paul Simon, the famous half of hit 60s band Simon & Garfunkel.
The Roshan sponsored performance will be broadcast on Tolo TV and 98.1 ARMAN FM. Tolo TV will also be featuring a documentary on Suphala in the coming week.
About the Foundation for Culture and Civil Society
The Foundation for Culture and Civil Society was established in early 2003 to support the development of Afghan contemporary arts and culture in a democratic way, involving communities throughout the country, and has organized over a hundred shows, exhibitions, book or movie launches and conferences since it opened a Cultural Center in Kabul in the summer of 2003. The concert hall was officially inaugurated last Thursday and will in future host an array of events celebrating the cultural diversity of Afghanistan whilst promoting exchange with foreign artists.
Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd. (TDCA) t/a Roshan is an Afghan company licensed by the government to provide modern mobile telecommunications services across the country. Starting operations in July 2003, TDCA is already Afghanistan’s largest and fastest growing mobile provider in the country. TDCA is owned by an international consortium formed by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), Monaco Telecom International (MTI), US-based MCT Corp. and Alcatel SA. The brand name for TDCA Ltd., Roshan, means “light” in Afghanistan’s two most widely spoken languages, Dari and Pashto. For the people of Afghanistan, Roshan brings a promise of trust, friendship, cooperation and hope for the future necessary in bringing the country out of a troubled past into a bright future.
About Tolo and Arman FM
Arman FM, Afghanistan’ first commercial station, has has dominated Kabul’s airwaves since its inception in 2003. In mid 2004 it expanded its operations to Mazar and then Herat where it also dominates. Arman FM is set to continue its expansion by establishing stations in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Ghazni and Kunduz in the coming months.
Tolo Television, one of the nation’s first commercial stations, was established in 2004 and since then has become greater Kabul’s most popular TV station.
|Back to News Archirves of 2005|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).