Top Afghan opposition leader calls for vote recount
(AFP) - 27 October 2005
KABUL - A key opposition leader on Thursday demanded a recount of Afghanistan’s elections last month, saying widespread fraud undermined the legitimacy of the country’s first parliamentary vote in more than 30 years.
Yunus Qanooni, the chief rival to President Hamid Karzai in last year’s presidential ballot, said that if all the votes cast on September 18 could not be recounted, a partial recount could save the process.
“We propose three ways: one, we want a recount of the vote,” the influential politician told reporters. “The second proposal is to recount ballots in those provinces where the fraud was widespread and candidates have complained.”
The third option would be to recount the votes of a sample of the leading candidates and “those declared losers” to see if the tally had been accurate, he said.
“This would help to secure the legitimacy of the elections,” he said.
NATO on target for Afghan expansion: NATO official
By Mark John Thu Oct 27, 1:31 PM ET
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO has raised nearly all the troops it needs to expand to south Afghanistan next year and is confident of ending a dispute over command ties to the U.S.-led coalition there, an alliance official said on Thursday.
"We have some 85 percent of the 6,000," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, of a plan to expand the 9,000-strong ISAF peacekeeping force to 15,000 by early 2006.
ISAF is currently present in the north, west and in the capital Kabul.
The expansion will require better coordination between NATO troops and U.S.-led forces fighting Taliban guerrillas in the south. It is also seen as the next step toward NATO taking over all foreign military operations in Afghanistan, a prospect backed by the United States.
France, Germany and others rejected a U.S. proposal last year for a merger of ISAF with the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), insisting that peacekeeping and the OEF's more dangerous counter-insurgency work remain separate.
However the official said there were signs they were warming to a compromise under which NATO would take overall command of operations but with counter-insurgency remaining mainly in the hands of the OEF.
"We are moving toward consensus. There is broad agreement on command arrangements," said the official, adding that final agreement could be reached by the end of the year, perhaps at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in December.
Under the expansion plan, British, Dutch and Canadian troops would lead NATO's move into the south, while Germany would take over in the more stable north. Italy and Spain already have set up bases in the west.
German Defense Minister Peter Struck hinted last month that Berlin could accept the compromise on command arrangements, calling it a "one-roof, two-pillar" model that kept peacekeeping and counter-insurgency tasks sufficiently separate.
Some of France's concerns also appear to have eased.
"The important thing for us is that the two missions are distinct from each other," said a French official, stressing that some issues still had to be resolved.
After the expansion to the south, NATO is looking to assume command of the east. The timeframe for that has not been agreed but Washington is hoping it will happen by end-2006.
Under the compromise being discussed, overall control of foreign military operations would lie in the hands of an ISAF commander with three deputies -- one for peacekeeping work, one for air operations and one for "security."
That last deputy would continue to report to the U.S.-led coalition for counter-insurgency operations.
That would mean U.S. forces continuing to take the brunt of the insurgency, although Britain for one has made it clear that any nation willing to be present in the south must be prepared to tackle insurgents.
UN report highlights Afghan human rights concerns
Friday, October 28, 2005. 12:41pm (AEST) Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Escalating violence, torture and forced child marriages are some of the rights abuses still blighting Afghanistan four years after the removal of the fundamentalist Taliban government, the United Nations says.
While the country has made great strides since the Taliban were forced from power, the human rights situation "remains of great concern" a report released this month by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour says.
"Factional commanders and former warlords remain major power brokers, and the activities of anti-government entities and of the government and international forces combating them continue to take a toll on civilians," it says.
The Taliban took control of most of Afghanistan in 1996 when the country was torn apart by fighting between rival ethnic factions that killed tens of thousands of people.
The Taliban imposed a brutal system until they were removed in a US-led attack in late 2001.
They have since vowed to topple the new government, playing a major role in an insurgency that has claimed about 1,400 lives this year.
The report praises moves to ensure there is no amnesty for past abuses but says there is nonetheless a state of impunity.
"Little progress has been made to date towards bringing to account those most responsible for serious human rights violations during the decades of conflict, some of whom remain in positions of influence if not authority," the report says.
"In addition, violations continue to be perpetrated with apparent impunity by armed strongmen in many parts of the country."
Security forces implicated
Afghan and international security forces hunting down the insurgents are also implicated in abuses.
"Arbitrary and prolonged pre-trial detention remains frequent throughout Afghanistan. Torture appears to be a common practice in order to secure confessions," the document says.
Detainees of the international coalition forces had reported having their property stolen, forced nudity and "a particularly harsh and arbitrary detention regime".
The formal justice system is meanwhile undermined by corruption and "the ominous influence of warlords and local commanders," according to the report.
Detention facilities do not conform to international standards and some local authorities operate private prisons, including for women who are forced to work.
The situation of women, denied basic education and health care under the Taliban, had improved only in certain respects, with more of them in the paid workforce and education system.
"However, the stark reality is that women in Afghanistan, especially outside of Kabul and urban areas, and particularly among the poor, are generally still viewed as the property of men," the report says.
Another major concern is child marriage, which some estimates say makes up more than 40 per cent of all marriages in Afghanistan.
"Girls as young as seven years of age are made to marry much older men, sometimes 30-40 years older", often to settle debts or disputes.
The practice is in part to blame for regular reports of cases of self-immolation, with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission saying there had already been 85 cases this year.
Women are also killed in the name of honour, forced into prostitution, raped and subjected to sexual and domestic violence, the report says.
However their recourse to justice is limited and offenders rarely prosecuted.
Children also suffer: some as young as six have to work and boys are reportedly still being recruited by the Taliban.
More than 4,750 child soldiers had however been demobilised since the beginning of 2004 in a project run by the UN children's program, UNICEF.
The enrolment of boys in schools has risen to 67 per cent but that of girls is among the lowest in the world: 40 per cent overall and just 10 per cent in secondary school, the report says.
Maternal mortality rates are also exceptionally high: about 1,600 out of every 100,000 Afghan mothers die while giving birth or because of related complications.
And about 20 per cent of Afghan children are dead before their fifth birthday, with most children dying from preventable diseases.
Afghanistan: Report Urges Reforms In International Civil-Military Teams
By Robert McMahon
A respected U.S. policy institute says in a new study that international civil-military teams in Afghanistan need to be better organized and coordinate more closely with Kabul. The U.S. Institute of Peace says provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) have been an innovative but flawed approach to providing stability for Afghanistan’s regions. Afghanistan’s former interior minister says the PRTs must also begin to take on a counternarcotics role.
Washington, 27 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Institute of Peace report finds that the 22 PRTs have had a stabilizing effect in Afghanistan’s provinces.But it says reconstruction projects have suffered from a lack of coordination and oversight.
Robert Perito, the U.S. Institute of Peace specialist who directed the report, told a briefing yesterday that after three years of improvising, the PRTs must become more focused.
"As this program matures and develops and as more nations come in, it’s time for the PRTs to have an agreed concept of operations and a clear set of guidelines for civil-military cooperation and relationships, which even to this day do not exist," Perito said.
The PRTs are located from Faizabad in the northeast to Kandahar in the south, and are focused on small projects such as building bridges, renovating schools or clinics, and training Afghan police. Their aim is to improve security and extend control of the Afghan central government.
But the PRTs handle civil-military activities in different ways, depending on the environment and the priorities of troop-contributing countries, which set conditions for deploying forces.
The U.S. military leads many of the PRTs in the less secure eastern and southern regions of the country. There are plans to increasingly hand over authority for these teams to fellow NATO and coalition members. Experts see this as a key time to improve and standardize operating procedures.
"We did find that when we put a PRT in an area, that immediately security flowed in a puddle -- effectively from that PRT simply being there." -- U.S. general Ali Jalali, who recently served as Afghanistan's interior minister, represented Kabul on a committee that sought to coordinate PRT projects. He said the committee lacked power to set policy. The result, he said yesterday, has been that too few of the projects reflected the priorities of the Afghan government.
"While PRT-initiated, quick-impact reconstruction projects are effective in the counterinsurgency setting, they would be strategically more effective if carried out in accordance with the direction of the national government and in line with the national development programs," Jalali said.
Jalali, who left the government last month, cited the positive impact of PRTs in Mazar-e Sharif in the north and Herat in the west, which played a greater security role than other units. He joined Perito of the Institute for Peace in saying PRTs should be engaged in more security efforts, such as training Afghan forces and constructing police stations.
Lieutenant General David Barno commanded U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan for an 18-month period until last spring. He promoted the expansion of PRTs and told yesterday’s briefing they have played a critical role in securing the country.
"We did find that when we put a PRT in an area, that immediately security flowed in a puddle -- effectively from that PRT simply being there," Barno said. "So as we moved into the spring of 2004 we made a deliberate decision to seed PRTs in the south and east of the country where the most contentious areas were."
But while the PRTs have had a calming effect on regions where Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and factional forces are active, they have not been tasked with directly combating drug traffickers. A number of NATO members have so far declined to take on a direct counternarcotics role.
Former Interior Minister Jalali said it should be a matter of direct interest to Western European states in NATO, because such a large portion of opium produced in Afghanistan reaches Europe. "I would suggest that this is the time that PRTs should think of a role in counternarcotic activities, not only in the interest of stabilization of the Afghan provinces, but at the same time in order to have a role in global war on narcotics," he said.
The Institute of Peace report comes out at a time of increasing discussion in NATO capitals about the PRT model for nation-building projects. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a U.S. Senate panel last week that in November, coalition-run PRTs will start operating in Iraq to help local governments establish services.
Former army officers to receive back pay
via Afghan Press Monitor (No 183, 26 Oct 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
(Cheragh) President Hamed Karzai has ordered that hundreds of army officers dismissed as part of defence ministry reforms should receive two months' back pay. The officers claim they are owed money from 2002. Presidential spokesman Mohammad Karim Rahimi said the government is doing its utmost to find a permanent solution to the problems facing the ex-officers.
(Cheragh is an independent daily run by the Development and Democracy Association.)
Roadside bomb kills 1 police in southern Afghanistan
Kabul, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- A roadside bomb attack killed one police officer and injured two civilians in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province on Thursday, a senior police official confirmed
"The incident took place in Hojak Baba area just 20 minutes ago when a highway police van was passing by a bicycle parked alongside the road," Amanullah told Xinhua.
The bomb was planted in a bicycle parked along the road, he said.
Kandahar, the former stronghold of Taliban, has been the scene of spiraling security incidents over the past one month during which more than 50 people have been killed.
Taliban-led militancy have claimed lives of over 1,400 including rebels, Afghan and US troops since the beginning of this year.
Daily Afghan Report
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - October 26, 2005
Afghan President's Office Downplays Extradition Of Drug Lord
In a press statement, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on 24 October announced the extradition of Haji Baz Mohammad, an alleged drug kingpin, from Afghanistan to the United States on charges of manufacturing and distributing more than $25 million worth of heroin in Afghanistan and Pakistan and for allegedly arranging for the heroin to be imported into the United States and other countries (see End Note). DEA administrator Karen Tandy said: "We've made history today," as Major General Sayyed Kamal Sadat, director-general of Afghanistan's Counternarcotics Police, stood beside her. Afghan presidential spokesman Mohammad Karim Rahimi told a press conference on 25 October in Kabul that Baz Mohammad's extradition was a routine issue involving a person who was on "the international criminal list," Pajhwak Afghan News reported. AT
Rocket Attack Leaves Six Afghan Civilians Dead South Of Kabul
A rocket targeting a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) convoy in Logar Province missed its target and hit a civilian vehicle, killing at least six people and injuring three, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 25 October. A purported neo-Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Hanif, said on 25 October: "We attacked a U.S. convoy in Logar. There was an exchange of fire -- we retreated," AFP reported. Mohammad Hanif did not comment on casualties. AT
Police Instructor Killed In Eastern Afghanistan
A spokesman for the Nangarhar Province police, Colonel Abdul Ghafur, said on 25 October that unidentified "armed men" fired at a police-academy vehicle the same day, killing an instructor and injuring two in Fateh Abad, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mohammad Hanif called AIP on 25 October and claimed responsibility for an "ambush in Fateh Abad" on an Afghan National Army vehicle. According to Hanif, four soldiers were killed and six others were injured in the attack. Some in Afghanistan do not distinguish between the military and the national police force, which wears similar uniforms and often is involved in activities similar to that of the military. AT
German Forces Accused Of Illegal Excavation In Northern Afghanistan
A number of officials and some local people in Farkhar District of Takhar Province have accused German soldiers attached to the PRT commanded by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force of conducting unauthorized excavations in the area, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 25 October. Farkhar police chief Abdul Ali said on 25 October that he had visited the site, a historical fort known as Takht-e Solaiman, and noticed the evidence of some recent excavations. Abdul Ali did not say whether any artifacts had been removed from the site. German forces in Takhar are part of a PRT based in neighboring Konduz Province. A spokesman for the German forces in Konduz rejected the charges, saying that the allegations might have been made by people unhappy about the PRT's presence in the area. AT
First Modern Industrial Park Inaugurated In Kabul
KABUL, Oct 27 [Asia Pulse] - A modern park titled after the name of late Afghan minister for Mines and Industries Juma Mohammad Mohammadi was inaugurated Wednesday in the Bagrami district of the Kabul city, officials said.
The former Minister died in a plane crash in Karachi, Pakistan.
Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) constructed the park over 22 acres of land.
United States donated $5 million assistance for the construction of the park.
AISA chief Omer Zakhel said canals and roads had already built in the park. The park would attract foreign investors and would help in boosting the country's economy.
This is one of the three modern US-funded industrial parks. Two others are to be built in southern Kandahar and northern Balkh province, he added.
"The government and the US have done their duty and now we are going to assign the rest of the job to private sector," he informed.
Industrial parks both in Balkh and Kandahar provinces would be constructed in next months that would provide jobs to 10,000 Afghans.
Chief of the board of directors at Afghanistan International Chambers of Commerce and Industries Azarkhsh Hafizi termed the park construction as a good omen for higher investment.
However, he said "If the custom duty on importing of raw materials was not removed, the local investors would not be able to compete the foreign imported products."
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Pakistan to export 40 MW of electricity to Afghanistan
By Khalid Mustafa Friday, October 28, 2005 Daily Times
ISLAMABAD: WAPDA has confirmed to the government that 40 MW of electricity could be exported to Afghanistan in response to a request by Kabul for electricity in its Khost province, a senior official told Daily Times.
Afghanistan has been seeking the import of electricity from Pakistan for some time. The Ministry of Water and Power, at the request of the Planning Commission, asked WAPDA several months ago how much electricity could be exported to Afghanistan. WAPDA has given a positive response to the request and said it can export 40 MW of electricity to the Khost province of Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan, for the first time, asked for electricity to be imported from Pakistan when President General Pervez Musharraf and his cabinet members, including the WAPDA Chairman Lt Gen (retired) Zulfiqar Ali Khan, visited Kabul on April 3, 2002.” Since then the issue has not been discussed because of the law and order situation in Kabul and a degree of resentment for Pakistan in Afghanistan. Now the situation has changed and Pakistan’s experts are working on the project to export electricity.
WAPDA would lay down the transmission line from Miran Shah/Para Chinar to Khost and an expert team would finalize the plans with Kabul authorities for the transmission of the electricity from Miran Shah to Khost. However, both governments have not yet discussed the rates for electricity exported to Afghanistan.
The source said WAPDA would also lay down a 132 KV transmission line from the Landikotal grid to the Afghanistan area nearby, where the country’s infrastructure for transmitting electricity is located.
The official said that Afghanistan has also renewed its offer to WAPDA to rehabilitate the powerhouse and its workshop at Kabul and develop the country’s power distribution system. “WAPDA has agreed to execute all these projects,” he added.
THREE AFGHAN PROVINCES SEEK TO BUY POWER FROM PAKISTAN
Friday October 28, 2005, 1:22 pm
KHOST CITY, Oct 28 Asia Pulse - Governors of three Afghan provinces have asked the central government and the international community to launch a reconstruction campaign in the southeastern region now that the security situation has improved.
The demand came at a meeting of Khost, Paktia and Paktika governors in the southeastern city of Khost. ADVERTISEMENT
On day one, a number of provincial department heads and representatives of the reconstruction team (PRT), UNHCR, UNAMA and NGOs briefed the session that will conclude on Friday.
Provincial authorities unanimously sought power purchase from Pakistan to electrify the southeastern region. They agreed the next meeting of the council on reviewing the overall situation would be held in Paktika.
Khost Governor Mirajuddin Patan, who chaired the meeting, threw light on the Greater Paktia Development Council, which works for the uplift of the three provinces.
Paktika's Rural Development Department chief Engineer Khaled Khan Bahadur, addressing the participants, said they had completed a number projects costing $4 million under the National Solidarity Programme (NSP).
Some other schemes were in the process of execution, he added. Dispelling the impression that security in the province is on a nosedive, he insisted the overall situation was satisfactory.
The director urged the Centre as well as the global fraternity to initiate reconstruction projects in Paktika.
Hakim Taniwal, governor of Paktia, demanded of the Karzai administration to build dams in Machalgho nd Ahmadkhel areas. He went on to draw the authorities' attention towards the dysfunctional health sector while underlining the need for the establishment of more hospitals and health clinics in his province.
Engineer Mohammad Omar, head of Khost's Rural Development Department, called for a new census in all the three provinces as all viable economic plans were worked out on the basis of population.
He stressed the imperative of building water reservoirs for irrigating cultivable lands and power generation, pavement of the Ghulam Khan-Khost road and the launch of housing schemes in districts to ease the increasing pressure on Khost's civic infrastructure and traffic congestion.
Speaking on the occasion, the UNAMA representative pointed out they were tasked with conducting the elections and launching reconstruction projects in the three provinces.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Afghan police arrest Malaysian UN worker carrying opium Afghanistan
ABC Asia Pacific - Oct 27 5:28 AM
A Malaysian national with a UN identity card has been arrested while trying to fly out from Afghanistan's main airport with 200 grams of opium.
Airport police chief commander Aminullah Khan says was arrested with the opium in his pockets.
Commander Khan says the man had an identity card saying he worked for the United Nations in Afghanistan and a Malaysian passport.
Police allege he was due to catch a flight to India and tried to throw away his ticket when stopped by police.
UN officials could not immediately confirm the arrest.
Afghanistan produces almost 87 per cent of the world's illicit opium.
ABC Asia Pacific TV / Radio Australia
Takhar Plans Residential Scheme For Returning Afghan Refugees
Friday October 28, 12:50 PM
ALOQAN, Oct 28 Asia Pulse - The government plans to launch the first residential scheme for more than 10,000 returning refugees in the northern Takhar province next month.
The project, scheduled to be started in this provincial capital, will shelter about 10,000 refugee families. ADVERTISEMENT
A chunk of land measuring 1,000 acres has been allocated for the residential scheme, officials said.
Said Iqbal, head of the refugee department in the province, told Pajhwok Afghan News each family had to deposit 30,000 afghanis (US$700) to get a plot.
He added 100 plots had already been distributed among the returnees and they would be able to start the construction work next month.
Explaining the residential plan, Iqbal said the amount so collected from refugees, would be spent on construction of mosques, parks, roads and hotels; sanitation system and provision of potable water.
Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had also pledged to provide financial assistance to the returnees in their rehabilitation, he maintained.
Official estimates show that about 16,000 refugee families have returned from the neighbouring Pakistan and Iran since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001.
Meanwhile, the returnees hailed the scheme and demanded of the government to implement it as soon as possible.
Mustafa, 36, who has been allotted a plot, said: "We are living in a rented house and paying 4,500 afghanis per month which is a burden on my meagre income."
He added: "The scheme will solve residential problems of many families." A 42-year-old widow, Amina, said her husband was martyred during jihad.
"I sold my house and shifted to Pakistan, but after return, I have no shelter and am living in a single room in a relative's house along with my eight children."
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Extradited Taliban to be tried in Afghanistan 'soon'
Thu Oct 27, 3:48 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan will soon put on trial 14 members of the fundamentalist Taliban who became the first insurgents loyal to the government ousted four years ago to be extradited from Pakistan, officials said.
The men were being questioned by the national intelligence agency in Kabul, said presidential spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad. Pictures showed some of them arriving in the city on Wednesday blindfolded and handcuffed.
"They will be put on trial... Soon, in the coming days, weeks," Ahmad said.
One of them is Abdul Latif Hakimi, a spokesman for the Taliban who was arrested in Pakistan this month. He frequently called the media to say the Taliban were responsible for attacks on Afghan and US-led forces and civilians.
Another was Mohammad Yasir, also a one-time spokesman for the Taliban who was reportedly arrested in August.
Investigations would determine the charges the men would face, another presidential spokesman, Karim Rahimi, said.
"After the investigations are completed they will be put on trial," he said.
Evidence against Hakimi included a recording of a telephone call in which he is allegedly heard to order killings, another government official said on condition of anonymity.
The arrests showed "they can't hide inside Afghanistan and they can't hide outside Afghanistan. They will be caught no matter where they are," he said.
An intelligence official said Hakimi would in particular be questioned about his links to the Taliban leadership including Mullah Omar, the elusive one-eyed zealot who headed the hardline government that controlled most of the country from 1996 to 2001.
"It could take a while," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Taliban loyalists fled over the border to Pakistan after the fundamentalist regime was forced out of power in a US-led campaign because they did not hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Many of the militants and their Al-Qaeda allies are believed to cross the porous border into Afghanistan to launch attacks before retreating to Pakistan.
President Hamid Karzai's office said the handover of the 14 Taliban militants was an important step in the relations between the neighbours.
"It is the first time there has been such a handover and we hope there will be more in future," Rahimi said.
Pakistan has carried out several operations to root out the militants, but some officials in Afghanistan say it is not doing enough to round them up.
An insurgency against the government by Taliban fighters and other rebels has already cost more than 1,400 lives this year, most of them militants.
Attacks linked to the insurgency mostly occur in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the areas on the border with Pakistan, where the bulk of a US-led force of about 20,000 soldiers is tasked with hunting down the militants.
Two policemen and a militant were killed Thursday in some of the latest violence, officials said.
Suspected Taliban militants struck a police post guarding television masts on a hill about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the capital Kabul in the early hours of the morning, interior ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said.
A policeman and a militant were killed in the attack near the city of Ghazni.
Militants were also blamed for a bomb blast in the volatile southern city of Kandahar that killed a policeman and wounded two civilians. The explosive was fixed to a bicycle and was detonated by remote-control as a police vehicle drove past, a police officer said.
Pakistan Replays the "Great Game"
Far Eastern Economic Review 10/26/2005 - By Husain Haqqani
For over two years, Abdul Latif Hakimi regularly telephoned Pakistani and Western reporters and described himself as the spokesman for Afghanistan's Taliban. He claimed responsibility on behalf of the Taliban for several terrorist attacks. In June, when a MH-47 helicopter was shot down during an antiguerrilla mission in Afghanistan's Kunar province bordering Pakistan, killing all 16 U.S. troops on board, Hakimi reported the incident to the media before U.S. or Afghan officials. Hakimi's claims were often exaggerated or even totally fabricated. But no one doubted that he was based in Pakistan and that he spoke on behalf of the Taliban. Hakimi's telephone press conferences and interviews, conducted on satellite and cell phones, offered an embellished version of an emerging ground reality. After being toppled from power in the aftermath of 9/11, the Taliban have reconstituted themselves in part of the Afghan countryside as an insurgent force, especially in provinces dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Since the beginning of 2005, casualties in Afghanistan have been rising. Some 84 American soldiers and 1,400 Afghans have been killed this year, more than any year since the arrival of U.S. forces in 2001. The Taliban insurgency is weak and not yet as threatening as the challenge in Iraq. But Afghan insurgents are clearly getting arms, money and training. Through propaganda of the type waged by Hakimi, the Taliban are also recruiting new members.
When Pakistani authorities announced on Oct. 4 that Hakimi had been arrested in the southwestern city of Quetta, just across the border from the Taliban's traditional support base of Kandahar, officials in Afghanistan were not impressed. Why had it taken the Pakistanis so long to silence Hakimi when he operated freely in Pakistan for over two years, they asked. What about other Taliban leaders who roam the streets of Quetta and other Pakistani cities and towns quite openly?
Pakistan's decision to arrest the Taliban spokesman was attributed to relentless U.S. pressure. Days before Hakimi's arrest, U.S. officials reportedly raised the issue of the Taliban operating freely in Pakistan during meetings with President Pervez Musharraf in New York.
U.S. officials are usually restrained in publicly criticizing Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, for fear of embarrassing the country's pro-U.S. military strong man, Gen. Musharraf. But last summer U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad questioned Pakistan's commitment to eliminating the Taliban in an interview just before leaving Afghanistan for his new assignment in Iraq. Ambassador Khalilzad wondered why Pakistan's security services could not find Hakimi and another deputy to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Akhtar Usmani, when they were readily available to the media and occasionally gave interviews to Pakistani television channels.
U.S. and Afghan officials realize that it will be difficult to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan if the Taliban and other enemies of President Hamid Karzai's government continue to find sanctuary in Pakistan. Notwithstanding the high profile arrest of the Taliban spokesman, there is no evidence that Pakistan is about to sever all links with the Taliban or to give up its dreams of a client state in Afghanistan.
During the war against the Soviets, Pakistan's military leader General Zia ul-Haq had adopted a policy that would bleed the Soviets without goading then into direct confrontation with Pakistan. Pakistani intelligence officers used the metaphor "the water must not get too hot" to describe that policy.
It seems that Pakistan is pursuing a similar policy in relation to Afghanistan today. By allowing the Taliban to regroup and mount insurgent attacks across the border, Pakistan's hopes to make it clear to Afghan leaders such as Mr. Karzai that they cannot stabilize their country without Pakistan's help. At the same time, Pakistan does not want the situation to reach the point of inviting U.S. reprisals.
Ties between Pakistan and the Taliban date back to the founding of the movement in 1994. Then, the Taliban?Pashtun students of madrassas, or Islamic seminaries?rose to end the bitter civil war that had ravaged Afghanistan for almost two years after the collapse of a pro-Communist government. Pakistan had fueled the civil war as well, trying to promote the cause of its client Islamist leaders, especially Gulbeddin Hekmatyar, who earned notoriety by raining rockets on Kabul in a bid to wrest control of Afghanistan's capital.
Pakistan's role, with U.S. help, as the staging ground for the guerrilla war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1988 is widely known. What is less well known is Pakistan's historic concern with extending its influence into Afghanistan long before the arrival of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan's attitude toward Afghanistan was formed largely by historic developments of the 19th century when Britain and Russia competed for influence in Central Asia in the "Great Game" of espionage and proxy wars.
Concerns about security against Russia pushed the frontier of British India westward and the British lost precious lives in their effort to directly control Afghanistan. Recognizing Afghanistan as a buffer between the British and Russian empires saved both from having to confront each other militarily. By accepting a neutral and independent Afghan Kingdom the British sought to pass on the burden of subduing some of the tribes the imperialists considered lawless to a local monarch, albeit with British economic and military assistance.
Afghanistan's frontier with British India was drawn by a British civil servant, Sir Mortimer Durand, in 1893 and agreed upon by representatives of both governments. The border, named the Durand Line, intentionally divided Pashtun tribes living in the area, to prevent them from becoming a nuisance for the Raj. On their side of the frontier, the British created autonomous tribal agencies, controlled by British political officers with the help of tribal chieftains whose loyalty was ensured through regular subsidies. The British used force to put down sporadic uprisings in the tribal areas but generally left the tribes alone in return for stability along the frontier.
Adjacent to the autonomous tribal agencies were the "settled" Pashtuns living in towns and villages under direct British rule. Here, too, the Pashtuns were divided between the Northwest Frontier province and Baluchistan. Although Muslim, the Pashtuns generally sided with the cause of anti-British Indian nationalism and were late, and reluctant, in embracing the Muslim separatism of the All India Muslim League's campaign for Pakistan. When the majority of British India's Muslims voted for the creation of Pakistan, the Pashtuns elected leaders who emphasized ethnic pride over a religious national identity.
After Pakistan's independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistani leaders assumed that Pakistan would inherit the functions of India's British government in guiding Afghan policy. But soon after Pakistan's independence, Afghanistan voted against Pakistan's admission to the United Nations, arguing that Afghanistan's treaties with British India relating to Afghan borders were no longer valid because a new country was being created where none existed at the time of these treaties. Afghanistan demanded the creation of a Pashtun state, "Pashtunistan," which would link the Pashtun tribes living in Afghanistan with those in the nwfp and Baluchistan. There were also ambiguous demands for a Baluch state "linking Baluch areas in Pakistan and Iran with a small strip of adjacent Baluch territory in Afghanistan."
From Pakistan's perspective, this amounted to demanding the greater part of Pakistan's territory and was clearly unacceptable. The Afghan demand failed to generate international backing, and Afghanistan did not have the military means to force Pakistan's hand.
Although India publicly did not support the Afghan claim, Pakistan's early leaders could not separate the Afghan questioning of Pakistani borders from their perception of an Indian grand design against Pakistan. They wanted to limit Indian influence in Afghanistan to prevent Pakistan from being "crushed by a sort of pincer movement" involving Afghanistan stirring the ethnic cauldron in Pakistan and India stepping in to undo the partition of the subcontinent. Pakistan's response was a forward policy of encouraging Afghan Islamists that would subordinate ethnic nationalism to Islamic religious sentiment.
Pakistan's concern about the lack of depth in Pakistan's land defenses led to the Pakistani generals' strategic belief about the fusion of the defense of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan's complicated role in Afghanistan beginning well before the Soviet invasion of 1979 and through the rise and fall of the Taliban can best be understood in light of this desire.
Pakistan's position as the principal foreign player in Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal changed with the arrival of American and NATO forces in the aftermath of Al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Pakistan has recognized that changed situation, deferring a great deal to American concerns. But it has clearly not abandoned its long-term national objective of ensuring that the government in Kabul is subordinate to Pakistan's regional agenda.
Pakistan provided crucial logistics and vital intelligence support when the U.S. went to war to topple the Taliban from power. Initially, Pakistan had hoped for a role for some Pakistani clients in the new government in Kabul and had floated the idea of "moderate Taliban" joining the future Afghan government. Although Taliban leaders were completely excluded from the interim government formed in 2001, they have been allowed by President Karzai to participate in parliamentary elections upon renouncing violence.
But Mr. Karzai and other Afghan nationalists remain unwilling to accept Pakistan's vision of Afghanistan as a subordinate state. Afghanistan maintains close ties with India and expects to pursue an independent foreign policy. Although Pakistan is engaged in a peace process with India, its generals remain fearful of Indian domination. India's size coupled with its economic and military might make its ascendancy inevitable, but that does not deter Pakistan from pursuing options of low intensity and subconventional warfare for greater regional influence. The decision to continue to back or tolerate the Taliban is part of Pakistan's grand design for positioning itself as a major player in a contemporary version of the Great Game.
Pakistan will crack down on the Taliban, and give up the option of supporting Islamist insurgents in Indian-controlled Kashmir, only when it finds the cost of positioning itself as a major regional power unbearable. The U.S. could help Pakistan realize the dangers of persisting with its traditional policies by refusing to publicly pretend that it is unaware of Pakistan's regional double-dealing. An American-brokered accord between Pakistan and Afghanistan to end the latent dispute over the Durand Line, coupled with international guarantees to end Pakistan's meddling in Afghanistan, might be the minimum requirements for durable peace in the region where the 9/11 plot to attack the U.S. was hatched.
Mr. Haqqani is director of Boston University's Center for International Relations, and author of Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (Carnegie Endowment, 2005).
Afghanistan: Chief of police of Parwan hands over weapons
Source: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 27 Oct 2005
On October 26, Abdul Rrahman Siadkhel Mowlana, the chief of police of the province of Parwan, and also former commander of the 2nd Division, surrendered 119 weapons to the weapons collection team of the Afghanistan New Beginnings Programme (ANPB). The weapons, which included 6 heavy weapons, were immediately transferred to the cantonment site of Pol-e Charki where there are now under the surveillance of the Afghan National Army (ANA). The weapons will be either used by the elected Government of Afghanistan for the security of the country or – if not serviceable - destroyed.
Chief of Police Abdul Rrahman Siadkhel Mowlana voluntarily surrendered his weapons, thus actively participating in the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Group (DIAG) process. In the speech he gave during the hand over ceremony, Abdul Rrahman Siadkhel Mowlana said that he was “responding to the Government’s call to clean Afghanistan from weapons, disband illegal armed groups and bring stability and peace in the country”.
The DIAG process was launched on 11June, 2005 when officially announced by Vice President Khalili. So far, 13,439 weapons as well as 22,649 pieces of boxed and 38,771 pieces of unboxed ammunition have been handed over to and verified by ANBP collection teams in Afghanistan. 4,857 of the collected weapons have been handed over by 124 candidates to the parliamentary elections.
AFGHAN PARLIAMENT COULD EMERGE AS CENTER OF OPPOSITION TO PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard 10/27/05 EurasiaNet
An announcement on the final results of Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections is imminent, but preliminary totals already indicate that the country’s new legislature stands to be dominated by warrior-politicians who are generally hostile to President Hamid Karzai’s administration.
On October 23, Afghanistan’s Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) announced that a provisional tally of the votes cast in the September 18 election had been completed. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The JEMB said that final, certified results would be released by the end of October. Political observers in Kabul believed the most likely day for the announcement to be Saturday, October 29. No date has yet been set for the parliament’s first session, but a source within the president’s office indicated that legislators would probably convene in mid December.
Election officials found evidence of fraud during the ballot-counting process. At one point in early October, a JEMB official said roughly 4 percent of ballot boxes had been set aside because of suspected tampering. At the same time, the JEMB official maintained that attempts to fix the vote had occurred mainly on the local level and did not significantly influence the overall results. Ultimately, over 650 ballot boxes were excluded by the JEMB after it determined that they were tainted by fraud. On October 21, Karzai urged Afghans to accept the election results despite the vote-rigging.
The preliminary totals indicate that leaders of the Mujaheddin – guerrilla commanders who led the Afghan resistance to the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, and who later fought against each other during the ensuing civil war – will dominate the lower house of the Afghan parliament, or Wolesi Jirga, controlling a majority of the 249 seats. Many Mujaheddin leaders retain strong ties to armed groups that control much of Afghanistan outside of the capital Kabul. Over the past year or so, Karzai has tried to push Mujaheddin commanders out of positions of power. Among the high-profile Mujaheddin that Karzai succeeded in sidelining was Mohammad Fahim, who had served as a vice president and defense minister. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Given the existing tension between Karzai and the Mujaheddin, the parliament could easily develop into a center of opposition to the president. Indeed, one of the leading vote getters in the election appears to be Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of the Hizb-i-Wahdat faction, who is an implacable political enemy of Karzai. Mohaqiq’s Hizb-i-Wahdat faction, which is widely supported by ethnic Hazaras, was among the groups that fought the Soviets, and subsequently resisted Taliban efforts to conquer all of Afghanistan. Mohaqiq joined the transitional government as planning minister, but was dismissed after announcing that he would challenge Karzai in the October 2004 presidential election. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Mohaqiq has accused Karzai’s government of favoring the president’s own Pashtun community over Afghanistan’s other ethnic groups, including Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks.
Several prominent Tajik political leaders – including Yunus Qanooni, the former education minister in the transitional government, and Burhanuddin Rabbani, who served as Afghan president from 1992-96 – also appear to have secured parliamentary seats. Tajik militias were prominent in the resistance to Soviet occupation and provided the primary domestic opposition to the Taliban. Tajik commanders have become embittered with Karzai’s rule, however, as the president has persistently acted to curb Tajik influence in the central government. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. As a result, some political experts in Kabul expect Tajik leaders to try to use parliament to reclaim what they believe to be their rightful share of power.
Whether the Mujaheddin leaders will be able to coalesce into a solid parliamentary force that can exert pressure on the president remains questionable. First, the question of parliamentary leadership will have to be settled, and there are indications that the personal ambitions of several Mujaheddin leaders could disrupt the legislature’s ability to operate smoothly. Mohaqiq, Qanooni and Rabbani already have started politicking to be elected parliament speaker.
The political maneuvering could prove especially divisive for the ethnic Tajik parliament faction, said Fahim, who like Qanooni and Rabbani is a Tajik. "Qanooni should be the parliament speaker because he is young and popular not only in Kabul, but even in northern and southern regions, and he has proven his potential ... as a leader," Fahim said in an interview. "But I am sure that from the day that official results are announced to the opening session [of parliament], we [Tajik political leaders] will have a large task of working things out between Qanooni and Rabbani."
Editor’s Note: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard has reported from Afghanistan and Iran for EurasiaNet.
M'sia Gives US$1 Million To Pakistan, Afghanistan
PUTRAJAYA, Oct 28 (Bernama) -- Malaysia on Friday contributed US$1 million to Pakistan and US$50,000 to Afghanistan to help the two countries cope with the aftermath of the recent deadly earthquake in South Asia.
The cheques were handed over by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar to Pakistani High Commissioner Talat Munir and Afghan Ambassador Mohammad Yunos Farman in a simple ceremony at Wisma Putra here.
"We humbly acknowledge that our financial contributions will not be enough. However, we hope that they can alleviate the pain and suffering of the victims of the earthquake," he said.
On behalf of his ministry, Syed Hamid conveyed condolences to the victims and their families in the two countries as well India, also hit by the Oct 8 quake that killed tens of thousands of people.
He said no financial contribution was being made to India as it had said that it would be able to cope on its own.
Malaysia has sent blankets, tents, food and medicines to Pakistan and dispatched three teams to assist the Pakistani authorities in relief and humanitarian efforts.
Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also active in Pakistan, with some sending volunteers to the worst affected areas such as Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Balakot, Abbotabad and Batgram.
"I wish to put on record my sincere appreciation to the NGOs for their commendable efforts," Syed Hamid said.
He also received a contribution of US$200,000 from the Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council for the ministry's Disaster Fund.
Expressing hope that more individuals and corporate citizens in Malaysia would donate generously to the fund, he said it would allow for speedier channelling of cash to disaster areas.
He again requested that money collected by other organisations be channelled to the ministry's fund for better coordination of its distribution.
Parliament is Fractured and Locally Focused
By S. Mudassir Ali Shah – South Asia Monitor (Pak)
KABUL, October 10: Landmark elections in Afghanistan have expectedly thrown up a parliament that can be appropriately called a mixed bag - having members of all descriptions. A fleeting look at the list of elected people brings into the limelight the continued sway of conservative clerics, jihadi commanders, rivals of the incumbent president and a welcome foray of educated women into politics.
Indisputably, the election of several commanders like Burhanuddin Rabbani, Younus Qanuni, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf, Pacha Khan Zadran, Rashid Dostum's spokesman Faizullah Zaki, Hekmatyar's follower Khalid Farooqi, Commander Perum Qul, Hazrat Ali, Syed Mohammad Gulab Zoi and Dr. Ibrahim Malikzada spells bad news for human rights watchdogs and civil society organisations.
Taliban dissidents Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil (ex-foreign minister), Maulvi Qalamuddin (ex-minister for promotion of virtue and prevention of vice) Abdul Hakim Munib (ex-deputy trade minister) and the student militia's ex-intelligence chief Mullah Abdul Samad Khaksar are among the big losers - both in the electoral battle as well as on the political front – as they are no longer left with any platform.
With regard to the outright rejection of these elements, commentators opine Karzai has been able to kill two birds with one stone: Inducing schisms in Taliban ranks and keeping the defectors out of the loop - at least for the time being. But the president's apparently "deft stroke" could be a nostrum that might invite a backlash at a critical time in Afghanistan's transition to democracy.
Unlike his colleagues shellacked at the polls, one Taliban renegade Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi pulled off a landslide in the militancy-haunted Zabul province. A former guerilla commander who played a key part in the jihad against Soviet invaders, he acquired the nickname of Rocketi because of his nifty handling of all manner of rockets, grenades and bombs during the hidebound Taliban regime.
Ex-ministers returning to what appears "a fractured and locally focused parliament" are French-educated technocrat Ramazan Bashar Dost, Mustafa Kazmi, Syed Mohammad Ali Javed, Mohammad Arif Noorzai and Shakir Kargar. On the other hand, former ministers Taj Mohammad Wardak, Siddiq Chakari and Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai - opposed as they are to the Karzai administration - have emerged from the ballot battle as an unlikely trio of 'fall guys.'
Elected from the restive southern province of Kandahar - a focal point for most election observers, media-people and analysts - are former minister for tribal and frontier affairs Arif Noorzai, communist-era leader Noorul Haq Uloomi, Qayyum Karzai (the president's brother), then gubernatorial spokesman Khalid Pashtun, Haji Amir Lalai, Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, Shakiba and Rana Tarin.
Pashtuns have grabbed the highest number of Wolesi Jirga seats in spite of disunity in their ranks coupled with their political marginalization during and after the divisive Taliban rule. To some extent, the impressive electoral performance of the largest but fragmented community can be set down to the overwhelming gains reaped by enlightened Pashtun women from different regions - a heartening trend that was so noticeable never before.
Apart from a predictable clean sweep in Kandahar, Nangarhar and Kunar, they also did remarkably well in Helmand, Ghazni, Faryab, Laghman, Logar, Kabul, Nuristan, Paktika, Uruzgan and Zabul - regions in the grip of an excruciating insurgency that simply refuses to go away.
Second behind Pashtuns are the politically more aware Tajiks, who have largely retained their growing clout in Badakhshan, Badghis, Balkh, Farah, Ghore, Kabul, Herat and Takhar. Demonstrating an even higher level of unity and acumen, the minority Hazara community has finished an honourable third despite its numerical weakness. Struggling at the rock bottom of the list are the Uzbeks loyal to Rashid Dostum and Pashayees, supporting Hazrat Ali.
A Hazara Northern Alliance commander - notorious for hammering nails into the heads of captives from rival ethnic communities - has bagged the highest number of votes. Now posing as a democrat, his triumph reinforces the impression that many unreconstructed warlords have gone through the motions of the legislative elections because the exercise suited them just fine in the obtaining circumstances. How long they will cling to democratic ideals and uphold the will of the teeming masses is a moot question.
Virtually elected as independents under a law barring parties' participation in the vote, the 249 MPs - seen as a motley crowd for all the right reasons - are unlikely to forge unity within parliament to force Hamid Karzai into delegating some of his sweeping powers to the lower house, which is authorized to formulate and endorse laws, throw out the president's nominees for cabinet slots and grill ministers on a wide range of issues including efficiency.
Among the winners, at least two are dogged by a history of spine-tingling massacres, a chain of abductions and other grisly crimes. Their barbaric past is illustrated by six mass graves discovered recently in a dry ditch in Sra Qila area, 10 kilometers from Sharan, Paktika's capital. Though the Afghan government wants to probe the mass graves believed to contain the remains of hundreds of communist-era soldiers, yet the complicity of the dreaded regional commanders in the massacre impedes investigations.
The commanders-turned-politicians are accused of killing the soldiers of the 9th Brigade that fell in 1989 and subsequently dumping their bodies in the mass graves after they surrendered to mujahideen leaders. Paktika Governor Gulab Mangal, Interior Ministry and UNAMA officials in Kabul have already received nerve-racking details of the bones, human skulls, boots and worn-out uniforms found from the site.
A UNAMA official, aware of the discovery of the collective graves, assailed the Afghan government for trying to hush up the issue because of the powerful commanders linked to the "unpardonable brutality" and allowing them to run for parliamentary seats. He saw no justification for the killing of the soldiers following their surrender.
Additionally, widespread voter intimidation and instances of cheating in Paghman, Kandahar, Ghazni, Paktia, Badghis, Bamyan and Nuristan also put a damper on the polls. European Union observers alleged: "In certain provinces, cases of fraud such as ballot stuffing, proxy voting and possible coercion of voters intended to influence their choice of candidate have sparked worries."
The EU poll monitors told the Afghan election administration to handle the issue in a transparent and effective manner to safeguard the integrity of the elections that marked the culmination of the historical Bonn Process. The warning prompted Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) spokesman Sultan Baheen to pledge a thoroughgoing probe, whose outcome is yet to see the light of the day. "The European Union mission's opinion is important to us and we are investigation the complaints that have triggered concerns. We had said at the beginning this election will not be perfect."
JEMB's eloquent operations chief Peter Erben, hinting at the irregularities having been committed in many provinces, revealed ballot boxes from four percent of the 26,000 polling stations had been quarantined for investigation. Promising tough action against those found involved in the fraud, he too had warned of excluding the votes in question from the general count while asserting the Election Complaints Commission (ECC) had the authority to fine and disqualify errant candidates.
In Paghman, where Karzai's close ally Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf has been declared successful, ballot boxes from 95 polling stations were initially sealed on suspicion of rigging, but most of them were eventually counted as the poll panel remained tight-lipped over the fate of the inquiry it had vowed.
In the course of the disputed vote count, a female election employee was caught red-handed while marking ballot papers with her eye-lining pencil in favor of a particular contender. Another election worker was sacked and handed over to police on similar charges in Khost. In fact, a stream of gripes came from disgruntled candidates regarding election workers' implication in brazen rigging.
But international observers, familiar with Afghanistan's troubled history, contend participatory democracy - however imperfect - could prove an effective long-term strategy for crushing terrorism and sidelining extremist forces. If allowed to strike root in this benighted land, they maintain, democracy will eventually neutralize the influence of obscurantist forces in due course of time.
Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining and the September 18 vote in this strife-wrecked country is certainly no exception. Emphatic victories scored by women represent a defining feature of the parliamentary election, the first in 36 years.
The election of Malalai Shinwari (former BBC reporter), Fatima Nazari, Shukriya Barakzai, Fariba Ahmadi, Shakiba, Malalai Joya, Safia Siddiqui, Fawzia Gillani (polling the highest number of votes among females), Saira Sharifa, Tahira, Sharifa Zarmati, Hawa Alam Nuristani, Saleha, Shakila Hashmi, Nasima Niazi, Fahima Sadaat, Pardesa Safi, Shukriya Pekan, Zaifun Safi, Sohaila Shafaq, Fauzia Raufi, Seema Joyenda, Shireen Mohseni, Zahira Ahmadyar, Humaira Gulshani, Fatima Naeemi, Sadeeqa Mubarez, Saifoora Niazi, Azita Rifaat, Zarmina Pathan, Habiba Danish, Saamia Azizi, Rahila, Najia Saeed and scores of other enlightened women is a welcome development.
Despite fraud and corralling of women at home on voting day, supporters of the embryonic democratic process stress the new parliament will have to ensure the ascendancy of law over banditry to give the long-oppressed nation a modicum of hope. With the twice-delayed elections successfully conducted, Afghans are eagerly expecting a meaningful effort at infrastructure development and a stop to what many perceive as a cycle of brainless violence that has claimed 1,300 lives over the last six months.
If the parliamentarians-elect work hard enough to deliver on the promises they made while out on the hustings, the painful legacy of the past three decades of murder and mayhem would be eventually forgotten. For this long-cherished dream to come true, the legislators will have to agree on implementing on a priority basis the agenda for stepped-up uplift, national reconciliation and ethnic harmony.
How can the twin objectives of eliminating terrorism and setting in motion a sustained process of development be achieved remains a vexing question for a thumping majority of Afghans. For his part, President Karzai feels the "successful holding of the elections" represents a crushing defeat for militants." Apparently in a euphoric mood, he told a news conference on September 18 his government would strive to establish lasting peace and steer Afghanistan out of the multiple problems besetting it.
In a Pickwickian sense, Karzai may have some reason for his optimistic assertion that terrorists are on the run or elections will herald a sea-change. On the face of it, his statement is essentially meant for domestic consumption, as the ground situation underline the stark reality that terrorism and drugs are far from controlled, much less eliminated.
On both fronts, his government and its backers will have to fight resolutely over the long haul to bring a measure of normality to a country that still runs the risk of becoming a narco-state. Cooperation from neighboring countries plus a greater emphasis on the ongoing national reconciliation drive will lend a dramatic boost to the long-term campaign against terror.
How onerous and pesky is the challenge of banishing militancy from Afghanistan? The sheer enormity of the task can be easily gauged from top US General Jason Kamiya's observation that Taliban are not yet a spent force despite their failure to disrupt the elections. "I'm not ready to sign up to the fact that Taliban are crumbling … there still will be an enemy insurgency next spring."
The News Int. editorial 10/26/05 (Pak)
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan infused the much-needed warmth in the two countries' relationship on Monday when he promised all possible assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction.
That he addressed the audience at the press conference in Islamabad in Pashto and Urdu, as well as English, was symbolic of a newfound closeness between the two countries as a result of their common adversity. The earthquake, which set in motion a process of healing on either side of Kashmir, also seems to have brought together the two countries whose relations in the recent past had been clouded by misunderstandings.
The fact that the matter of the joint struggle against terrorism, a subject which has been behind the differences, came up for discussion during the talks Mr Karzai had with President Musharraf holds out hope for better bilateral understanding over the complicated problem. The coming weeks and months will tell how much progress the talks produced, but the sympathy displayed by the Afghan leader make the improvement in bilateral relations that much more possible.
Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries of the world, has already pledged half-a-million dollars for earthquake relief in Pakistan. It has also sent four helicopters and a 35-member rescue and relief team for work in the earthquake areas. "I wanted to come on the second day of the quake," President Karzai told the press conference, "but restrained myself, thinking the people were busy with immediate relief efforts."
This assistance and sympathy deserve Pakistan's gratitude all the more since Afghanistan itself suffered from the Oct. 8 disaster. Pakistan has no alliance with Afghanistan, as such, except that they happen to be on the same side in the anti-terrorism struggle. However, the deep historical and cultural bonds between the two nations are stronger than any formal alliance.
This country is the United States' close "Non-NATO Ally," but NATO wouldn't hear of airlifting relief assistance to Pakistan. So even if the talks President Karzai had in Islamabad don't produce the progress in the relations that we hope for, at least there will be no painful letdown.
Iran leader's comments condemned
BBC World News
There has been widespread condemnation of a call by the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for Israel to be "wiped off the map". The UK, France, Spain and Canada are summoning Iranian diplomats to demand an explanation for the remark.
The US said the comment highlighted concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, which Washington suspects is being used to develop weapons. Iran says its programme is for peaceful purposes only.
Mr Ahmadinejad made his comments at a conference in Tehran entitled The World without Zionism, the official Irna news agency reported. Western governments are bound to see it as further proof that Iran's hardline president is disinclined to curb his country's controversial nuclear programme, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says.
They may hope that a co-ordinated diplomatic protest will help step up the pressure, she says. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report last month said questions about Iran's nuclear programme remained unanswered, despite an intensive investigation. The UK, France, Germany and the US are pressing Iran to provide more access to its nuclear plans.
"If these comments are true, they are unacceptable. I condemn them with the greatest firmness," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said.
A British Foreign Office described the comments as "deeply disturbing and sickening". "We have seen in Israel today the horrible reality of the violence he (Mr Ahmadinejad) is praising," a FO spokesman said, referring to a Palestinian suicide attack on Wednesday in the Israeli town of Hadera that killed five people and injured up to 30 others.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr Ahmadinejad's opinion "just reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran. It underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear operations."
Spain, Canada and Germany also condemned Mr Ahmadihejad's comments. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom his country regarded Iran as "a clear and present danger". Mr Shalom said it was clear that Iran was trying to develop a programme to make nuclear weapons.
Mr Ahmadinejad told some 3,000 students in Tehran that Israel's establishment was "a move by the world oppressor (the West) against the Islamic world". Referring to Iran's late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mr Ahmadinejad said: "As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map."
Correspondents say this was the first time in years that such a high-ranking Iranian official had called for Israel's eradication, although such slogans are still regularly used at regime rallies.
Mr Ahmadinejad warned leaders of Muslim nations who recognised the state of Israel that they "face the wrath of their own people". He added: "Anyone who signs a treaty which recognises the entity of Israel means he has signed the surrender of the Muslim world." Mr Ahmadinejad came to power earlier this year, replacing Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who attempted to improve Iran's relations with the West.
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