Afghanistan to join South Asian group of nations: Indian PM
Sun Nov 13, 6:08 AM ET
DHAKA (AFP) - Afghanistan is to join the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh told the closing session of the 13th SAARC summit.
"We welcome Afghanistan to our group," Singh said in a brief statement summarising the pledges and agreements achived by the summit.
SAARC already groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It was founded in Dhaka in 1985 with the aim of promoting economic cooperation and alleviating poverty in South Asia.
The region is home to 1.4 billion people, many of whom live below the poverty line.
The 13th summit took place in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka this weekend.
Conservatives to Dominate in Afghanistan
By CARLOTTA GALL The New York Times November 13, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan, Sunday, Nov. 13 - Afghanistan moved closer to forming its new National Assembly on Saturday, electing provincial representatives to the upper house, or the Meshrano Jirga, and releasing final results for elections held in September for the lower house and for provincial posts.
Based on early analyses of the full results of the Sept. 18 elections, the National Assembly will be dominated by religious conservatives and jihadist figures. They may form a strong base of opposition to the president, Hamid Karzai.
Many results from the September elections had been delayed, largely because of investigations into numerous cases of election fraud.
In voting on Saturday, members of the provincial councils in 32 of the nation's 34 provinces chose two representatives from each council to sit in the Meshrano Jirga, or House of Elders, said Sultan Baheen, a spokesman for the election board.
The remaining provinces, Helmand and Kandahar, will hold elections in coming days, he said.
Officials said they hoped that the country's first elected legislature in 30 years would now convene as planned on Dec. 18.
To complete the upper house, Mr. Karzai must appoint 34 representatives, or one-third of the 102 members. Half of them will be women, who are guaranteed 25 percent of the seats in the assembly under the Constitution.
The results of the September vote for the 249 members of the directly elected lower house, the Wolesi Jirga, or the House of the People, and of the provincial councils, were confirmed after officials completed an investigation of results from Kandahar Province, the home of Mr. Karzai.
On Saturday, the provincial council in Kabul chose a former mujahedeen commander and trained architect, Muhammad Afzal Ahmadzai, 47, to hold a seat in the Meshrano Jirga, with 18 votes from the 29-member council. He is a member of the opposition bloc led by Yunous Qanooni.
A school headmistress from the Shiite Hazara ethnic minority, Nasreen Parsa, 38, came in second, with 10 votes.
Afghanistan to have disquieting parliament
KABUL, Nov. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- The post-war Afghanistan would have a disquieting parliament as the majority of the deputies outwardly affiliating with different rival political and ethnic groups, analysts believe.
As the final certified results of the landmark parliamentary polls in the post-Taliban nation came out Saturday, it indicates the former anti-Soviet resistance leaders, warlords, remnants of erstwhile pro-Moscow backed regimes and members of Taliban outfit who had fought each other in the last two decades and more would dominate the Wolesi Jirga, or National Assembly.
Over 100 anti-Soviet resistance figures, or Mujahidin, have secured seats in the Wolesi Jirga while some 15 legislators from the then pro-Moscow regimes, a handful of Taliban's former associates, a good number of technocrats and women have found their way to the 249-seat legislative body through elections held on Sept. 18.
All the remnants of the above groups either functioning or dissolved or outlawed were involved in the ruinous 25 years of war and civil strife in the war-stricken country and fought against each other ruthlessly.
"How is it possible for Taliban's commander Mullah Rocketi, former Northern Alliance leader Yunus Qanooni, communist's general Noorul Haq Alomi and a technocrat Qayum Karzai to sit on the same chamber and approve a bill unanimously," renowned analyst Qasim Akhgar observed.
However, he was of the view that a good number of the parliamentarians would compromise for their vested interests.
"We have learned from the past that both the warlords and technocrats despite differences would support each others in the parliament to further benefit from the situation and continue their domination in the society," Akhgar noted.
Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi who earned his last name for skillfully using rocket-propelled grenade in shooting down helicopters was a dreadful Taliban commander in the last decade, while Mohammad Yunus Qanooni a political leader of the defunct Northern Alliance significantly assisted the US military to drive out Taliban regime in late 2001.
A considerable number of the elected legislators, prominent among them minority Hazara leader Hajji Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf and Mullah Rocketi have been accused of systematic human rights abuse such as kidnapping, arresting and arbitrary killing of rivals' men during civil war.
The human right activists and the human rights watchdogs have been calling for the trial of the three persons and their associates over the past three years.
Both Mohaqiq and Sayyaf who lead their own factions, the Unity party of the people of Afghanistan and United Islamic party of Afghanistan respectively, have bagged their votes from the capitalKabul while Rocketi won from Taliban's stronghold in southern Zabul province.
Hundreds of Hazaras, the supporters of Mohaqiq had been reportedly killed by Sayaf's fellow Pashtuns, during 1992-1996 civil war only in the capital, while Rocketi from southern Zabul province allegedly committed war crimes in the north during Taliban's onslaught in late last decade.
In the meantime, the analyst did not rule out the possible unity of the warlords in the parliament for their common interestsby saying, "At last they will join hands to secure parliamentarian immunity and continue their rule in their respective areas." Akhgar emphasized while referring to warlords' fiefdoms in the countryside.
Another factor of fragmentation in the parliament as some observers believe is the presence of the young lady, Malali Joya, a strong critic of the warlords and stanch supporter of strengthening women position in the conservative society.
Joya, who got fame when she openly dared to accuse the warlords of violating human rights and ruining the country at the 2003 constitutional Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly, recently vowed to continue her struggle for the complete disarmament of the warlords and their trial for their deeds in the past through legislation.
"Keeping in mind the legislators' past rivalry, I think the tug-of-war among them would rule the parliament for at least one or two years and thus would curtain the legislation' normal business in some extent," observed a writer Mohammad Daud Dadras.
By the way, observers were unanimous that the division among deputies would enable President Hamid Karzai to muster support from his fellow Pashtun legislators, the country's major ethnic group, technocrats and moderate parliamentarians in order to get approved of necessary bills.
"President will be able to get the essential bills ratified by the parliament as he did in the constitutional Loya Jirga," the observer stressed while referring to endorse the US-style presidential system by the majority of 502 members of constitutional Loya Jirga two years ago.
"Naturally there will be differences and opposition with the government in the parliament but I think the parliamentarians would endorse the bills if they are in conformity with the national interests," a parliamentarian and former president Burhanuding Rabbani who backs Karzai administration and is going to run for the post of speaker national assembly said.
Afghanistan is free of bird flu now: says official
KABUL,11/13- The post-war Afghanistan is free of the bird flu epidemic so far as no case of the disease has been detected, an official of the country`s Public Health Ministry said Sunday.
"The government has taken all precautionary measures to check the possible out break of the bird flu in the country and that is why no case of epidemic has been registered so far," Mohammad Ismael Kawsi, director of the press department at the Health Ministry, told Xinhua.
His comment came amid reported outbreak of the disease in some countries in the region and bulk import of chicken to the post- conflict central Asian state. "Anyone can buy and eat the chicken available in bazaar here without any fear," the official said.
"We are strictly checking the import of chicken in order to prevent the possible spread of the disease to the poor and war- shattered country," he added.
The official moreover said that the Ministry for Public Health giving public awareness through television and radio, has asked people to contact the nearest department of Health Ministry as well as the Ministry for Agriculture and Livestock if they find any sign of bird flu in their areas.
Commenting on the sign of the disease, Kawsi said that saliva and shedding tears from the beak and eyes of a bird speak of the outbreak of the epidemic in a region.
When his attention was drawn towards the possible spread of bird flu through migrant birds passing over Afghanistan, the Afghan official said Public Health Ministry had already asked people to take any dead ducks or cranes to the nearest health or agricultural department for examination if they found anywhere in the country.
"The country is free of bird flu and to keep on clean it, both the Ministries of Public Health and Agriculture in coordination with World Health Organization (WHO) are doing their best to check the possible outbreak of the disease here," Kawsi said.
Taliban kill three Afghan police in restive south
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Taliban guerrillas killed three policemen after kidnapping them in a volatile southern province, an official said on Sunday, in the latest spate of fresh violence in Afghanistan.
The trio were kidnapped from their vehicle while travelling in a district of Helmand province on Saturday night and then were shot dead, Haji Mohammad Wali, a spokesman for Helmand's governor said.
A Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf had claimed responsibility for the attack.
The U.S. military said it had no reports of casualties in response to another claim by Yousuf -- that Taliban fighters had killed five U.S. soldiers in a clash in the southern province of Zabul, another province in the south.
Southern Afghanistan was the main bastion of the Taliban before U.S.-led troops drove them from power in 2001, after their leaders refused to surrender Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
The Helmand incident was the latest in a series of attacks. At least three policemen were killed, and eight wounded in separate attacks in the south and east on Friday night.
Taliban fighters were also suspected of killing a deputy provincial governor of Nimroz province on Thursday.
He was ambushed while travelling from his southern province to attend a conference in Kabul on national reconciliation.
More than 1,100 people, most of them militants, but also more than 50 U.S. troops, have been killed in the insurgency this year, the bloodiest period since Taliban's fall.
Afghanistan's Mojadeddi urges talks with Taliban
KABUL, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Talking, not fighting, is the only way to end Afghanistan's four-year-old Taliban insurgency, the head of the government's commission for national reconciliation said on Sunday.
"Talks, dialogue and negotiations...would prove fruitful for ending the war and reaching an understanding," Sibghatullah Mojadeddi told reporters after a conference aimed at exploring possible talks with the Taliban.
Participants in the government-sponsored conference included several former Taliban officials, including Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, a former foreign minister who surrendered to U.S. forces and was released after several years in custody.
Nearly 30,000 U.S. troops and NATO-led peacekeepers deployed in Afghanistan have failed to quell a low-level guerrilla war with the Taliban and their Islamist allies that has cost more than 1,100 lives this year alone.
Mojadeddi, who briefly served as Afghan president in 1992, said quelling the insurgency along Afghanistan's southern and eastern flanks had proved a difficult task.
"Despite trying so hard, and conducting many operations... neither the government or the international forces have succeeded in establishing complete peace in Afghanistan," he said. "It is difficult for continuous war to be a solution."
On Saturday President Hamid Karzai again urged Taliban and other militants to stop fighting. Karzai offered the rebels an olive branch two years ago, but only a few middle-ranking Taliban officials have joined mainstream politics.
Mojadeddi accused Muslim preachers in neighbouring Pakistan of encouraging the Taliban fighters.
"Some ulema (scholars), who have no fear of God in their hearts, and say Americans are here, have a hand in this," said Mojadeddi, who led a mujahideen government-in-exile in Pakistan during the fight against Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
Mojadeddi said Pakistani army officers and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency might be helping the Taliban, probably without the knowledge of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Islamabad denies giving any support to the Taliban, who are drawn from the Pashtun tribes that straddle the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Pakistan put around 80,000 troops on its border to help stop militants infiltrating into Afghanistan before parliamentary elections held there in September.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001 when U.S. forces and their Afghan allies drove the religious militia from Kabul following the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Afghan president promulgates establishing military court
KABUL, Nov. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzaihas promulgated the establishment of military court in the Afghan National Army (ANA), Defense Ministry spokesman disclosed Sunday.
"Under a decree of President issued last month, the law for military trial in seven chapters and 18 articles has been approved and became effective," Zahir Azimi told journalists at a news conference here.
Under the law, he added any personnel of ANA or Defense Ministry commits any crime would be marshaled by the court.
However, he added that the law would cover only the personnel of Afghan Defense Ministry and Afghan Army and not the US-dominated foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan.
The US troops reportedly have time and again abused the Afghan detainees at the US-run detention centers in the post-war nation.
Recently a footage broadcasted by an Australian television indicated that US soldiers were burning bodies of two Taliban fighters in south Afghanistan, which violates the Islamic tradition that demanding the bodies to be covered with white clothand buried. Enditem
Afghan troops return from relief efforts in Pakistan
November 13, 2005 COMBINED FORCES COMMAND – AFGHANISTAN COALITION PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Victoria Meyer Office of Security Cooperation–Afghanistan Public Affairs
KABUL , Afghanistan — Twenty Afghan National Army soldiers returned to a homecoming ceremony Oct. 30 in Kabul after nearly three weeks of assisting with earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan.
Four MI-17 helicopter aircrews from the ANA Air Corps, along with their maintenance personnel and 32 ANA doctors and nurses, participated in the relief efforts.
The Afghan contributions included the ANA aircrews flying more than 270 sorties, airlifting 1,071 casualties and transporting more than 88 metric tons of supplies including food, water, blankets and medical supplies.
ANA doctors performed countless surgeries, aiding victims of the devastating earthquake, while Afghan medical personnel set up field clinics and mobile medical teams to ensure they could help as many people as possible.
The mobile teams worked out of Chenari, Pandoo and Galidopata at the same time. By the end of the mission, the teams had helped 3,770 injured people, said ANA Brig. Gen. Shamim, the medical team leader for the mission.
Five U.S. servicemembers from the Office of Security Cooperation–Afghanistan accompanied the crews to Pakistan .
“The ANA aircrews deployed quickly and were among the very first to arrive in Pakistan . They filled a critical gap in airlift capability until sustainment forces could arrive,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Lipscomb, senior member of the U.S. team that accompanied the ANA. “Everyone who participated recognized the importance of this operation and was eager to help their neighbors during this tragic event.”
After coordinating with Pakistani authorities, the team moved to Sawen Koucha, where no medical care was available. There, they set up a 50-bed medical clinic and treated nearly 400 people.
Several key leaders from the government of Afghanistan attended the homecoming ceremony.
Dr. Ahmad Yusuf Nooristani, first deputy Minister of Defense; Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, deputy chief of General Staff for Plans and Operations; Maj. Gen. Mohammad Zaher Azimi, assistant Minister of Defense for Parliamentary, Social Relations and Public Affairs; Maj. Gen. Dawran, Air Corps commander; Maj. Gen. Yaftali, surgeon general of the ANA, and other Defense Ministry leadership welcomed the soldiers back from Pakistan and thanked them for their service.
Leaders from the Office of Security Cooperation–Afghanistan were also on hand to welcome home the team. Air Force Maj. Gen. John T. Brennan, OSC-A chief, Army Brig. Gen. James Hirai, director of OSC-A’s Defense Reform Directorate, and others came to show their support.
They all had laudatory words for the team’s work in Pakistan .
“It gives us great pride that the ANA and Afghan government were able to help the Pakistan earthquake victims,” Nooristani said.
“Once more, you brave people proved that wherever and whoever needs help throughout the world, you are ready to help them and be successful,” Nooristani said .
Afghan Border Police enhance operations with new radios, equipment
November 13, 2005 COMBINED FORCES COMMAND – AFGHANISTAN COALITION PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
Office of Security Cooperation–Afghanistan Public Affairs
KABUL , Afghanistan — A group of military communications experts from the Office of Security Cooperation–Afghanistan deployed to Herat Province recently to deliver new communications equipment to the Afghan National Police’s 6th Afghan Border Brigade.
The ANP will use the high-powered vehicle radios, man-portable radios and fixed-base stations to assist border security, customs revenue collection and counter-narcotics operations.
“We are providing the necessary tools for the 6th Afghan Border Brigade to gain greater control of the border in their area of operations,” said Army Col. Barringer Wingard, chief of operations in the OSC-A Police Reform Directorate.
“This will greatly enhance their ability to accomplish the mission. But this is a first step in an ambitious long-term goal to provide command and control from Kabul to the remote borders of Afghanistan ,” Wingard said.
The delivery of new equipment is part of a much larger combined effort on the part of Coalition partners, OSC-A, the German Police Project Office, the United Nations, and the Afghan Ministries of Interior and Communication.
“A united effort will ensure long-term success in this project as everyone brings unique skills and perspectives to the program,” said Marine Capt. Brant Frey, communications operations officer with the OSC-A PRD.
The 6th Brigade was selected as the first border police unit to receive the equipment since it is the largest of the eight border police brigades. The brigade’s area of operations covers more than 750 miles of border with Iran and Turkmenistan , and encompasses the Afghan provinces of Herat , Baghdis and Farah. There are also two major border crossing checkpoints in this area.
ANA Col. Mohammed Ayob Safai, 6th Border Brigade commander, said the equipment will allow him to exercise command and control of his unit along the Afghan border.
“The new equipment is essential for our control of operations,” Safai said. “We are able to solve many difficult problems along the border posts and prevent illegal activities and violations along the border.”
He added that the police officers are encouraged by the communications. “This equipment has proven critical for collecting intelligence and maintaining the status of my commands. After the installation of the new equipment on the border, we have already made two large narcotics arrests,” Safai said.
Before the new equipment was fielded, the OSC-A team trained key brigade officers in the installation, operation and maintenance of the systems.
“Finding the right people to operate the equipment is essential,” Frey said. “Many of the key communications officers were chosen because they had already received extensive computer and communications training from the German Police Project Office.”
“Ultimately, it’s the Afghan Border Police 6th Brigade that will be responsible for the effective use and maintenance of the equipment,” Frey said. “With the training and assistance of the Coalition, I am certain they’ll achieve great success.”
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