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Taliban ask edu dept staff, teachers, students to stay away from electoral process

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Taliban on Wednesday asked the teachers, students and other employees of the education department to stay away from the electoral process to avoid their attacks.

In a press release available with Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), the Taliban repeatedly termed election as an illegitimate project designed by the Unites States of America.

The Taliban said the US was striving to form a so-called parliament with these polls to pave for continued occupation of Afghanistan besides getting approved the agreements of their choice.

The Taliban urged teachers and other officials of educational institutes to avoid participating in the electoral process besides advising their students to follow their footprints. They were also asked to deny formation of polling centers in their educational institutes.

“The commission of education, training and higher education of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan directs the education employees, teachers, students and principals not to allow formation of polling centers in their schools, and not to deploy teachers or students as election workers,” the press release stated.

“The Islamic Emirate does not want to pose any harm to civilians or teachers and students of educational institutes. The teachers and students of educational institutes should completely stay away from the political projects of the enemy,” the Taliban said in the press release.

It is pertinent to mention here that polling centers have been formed in the school buildings in cities and many villages.

The government has deployed all the teachers as electoral observers on the day of elections. They have been asked to ensure their presence in the polling centers to observe the electoral process.

The Taliban have time and again opposed the electoral process in the country. The Wolesi Jirga election would be held in the country on next Saturday. The Afghan government has assured full security on the polling day.



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Khalil Karzai steps down as deputy foreign minister

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The deputy foreign minister, Hikmat Khalil Karzai on Wednesday resigned from his position, citing differences with government the only reason of his resignation, an official said. Sibghatullah Ahmadi, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), told Pajhwok Afghan News that Karzai presented his resignation letter to President Ashraf Ghani.

Karzai also shared his resignation letter on his twitter account written in Pashto.

He cited serious differences in views in the national unity government was the main reason of his resignation and said that conflict of opinions have limited the working space for him to continue serving his country.

Karzai said he preferred to remain alongside the people and thanked the government on reposing trust in him.

Several high-rank officials resigned from their positions ahead of the 2019 presidential election.

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Ghani opens road project funded by ADB in Parwan

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani has inaugurated the first phase of a 51-kilometer road section connecting Jabul Saraj to Nijrab road in Parwan province.

President Ghani, minister of public works Yama Yari, senior government officials and local authorities were present in the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday.

The project is financed from a $222 million grant from Asian Development Bank (ADB) under the Transport Network Development Investment Program. ADB’s investment program supports the reconstruction of a total of 145 km of national and regional highways.

“ADB is proud to be Afghanistan’s largest development partner in transport sector development,” said ADB director for Afghanistan Samuel Tumiwa.

The project will improve domestic and regional connectivity while widening access to social and economic opportunities.

Afghanistan is a founding member of ADB, and, to date, it has received over $4.7 billion in grants and loans. ADB was one of the first organizations to respond to the need to repair Afghanistan’s transport system, which had been destroyed by years of war.

Since 2002, ADB has provided $2.2 billion for 17 key road projects to construct or upgrade over 1,700 km of regional and national roads across Afghanistan.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.

Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in co-financing.


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Blast kills prominent Afghan politician

KABUL (AA): A leading Afghan politician and former presidential adviser on military affairs was killed in a Taliban-claimed explosion in Helmand province on Wednesday, an official said.

Authorities in Helmand confirmed Abdul Jabbar Qaharmaan, a prominent candidate for the forthcoming Wolesi Jirga, got killed in a blast caused by explosives hidden under a chair in his electoral office in provincial capital Lashkargah city.

Umar Zwak, spokesman for the governor of Helmand, told Anadolu Agency the blast took place at around 09.00 a.m. local time (0400GMT). Qaharmaan along with three other people succumbed to their wounds while eight more people got injured in this incident, he added.

Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack and pronounced Qaharmaan as “a true and brave patriot.”

Ghani also directed relevant authorities to launch investigations into the attack.

Last week, at least 22 people were killed and more than 30 others wounded in a blast at an electoral rally in Takhar province.

On Oct. 9, another candidate for the forthcoming elections and eight of his supporters got killed in a suicide attack in southern Helmand province, while 13 people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a similar attack in Nangarhar province on Oct. 2.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed its concern around the level of violence early in the campaigning period for the elections, including intimidation and attacks against candidates, their agents and supporters.

Afghans are set to go to the long-due parliamentary elections on Oct. 20. Currently, nationwide campaign for the polls is underway with the candidates holding political rallies amid grim security concerns.



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3 tons of drugs, chemical torched in Nimroz

Monitoring Desk

ZARANJ: More than three tons of narcotics including 428 kilograms of heroin were torched in southwestern Nimroz province on Wednesday, an official said.

Provincial police chief Col. Abdul Raqib Mubarez said the drugs torched included 328 kilograms of heroin, 2,152 kilograms of opium, 82 kilograms of hashish, 189 kilograms of liquid chemicals, 165 kilograms of solid chemicals, 10 liters of alcoholic drinks and 150kg of other drugs.

He said the drugs had been seized by counternarcotics police during separate operations. The forces had also arrested 93 individuals in connection with the drugs and confiscated 18 vehicles during the past 14 months.



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Declining saffron price worries Herat farmers

Monitoring Desk

HERAT CITY: Saffron growers in Herat province say they are concerned about the 50 percent decline in the crop’s price in international markets.

According to farmers, last year the price of one kilogram of Afghanistan’s saffron was 100,000 afghanis in the global market but price of the same quantity hovered between 40,000 and 50,000 afghanis this year.

Mohammad Ibrahim, an experienced farmer in Pashton Zarghon district of Herat, said he cultivated saffron on 7.5 acres of land, but the decline in its price made him disappointed.

“The price of saffron declined by a half this year but last year one kilogram of saffron was sold for 110,000 afghanis while this year the price is down to 50,000 afs,” the 51-year-old said.

He cited continued drought, import of saffron from Iran and lack of international market as main reasons behind the declining price of saffron. Khalil Ahmad, another farmer from Pashton Zarghon district, also expressed disappointment over the declining price of saffron and warned if the import of saffron from Iran was not stopped, the global price of the valuable crop would suffer further decline.

The price of one kilogram of saffron would slip to 20,000 afghanis if the crop import from Iran was not stopped, he warned.

Bashir Ahmad Rashidi, head of the Saffron Growers in Herat, said the lack of exports to \global markets caused almost 50 percent decline in the price of saffron.

“Unfortunately our saffron import volume is small and another reason is the smuggling of Iranian saffron to Afghanistan which damaged the global market,” he said.

Atiqullah Romal, director of statistics and figures at the Agriculture Department, said: “In the past, saffron was smuggled from Iran into Afghanistan but currently orders to stop the smuggling had been issued and it is expected that after the halt of smuggling from Iran, the price of saffron will remain constant.”

Over 10 tons of saffron was collected from fields this year in Herat, while in the coming season, over 12 tons of saffron is expected to be produced.




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Afghan forces continue to rely on coalition support: US

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: Afghan National Defence and Security Forces have improved some fundamental capabilities, such as high-level operational planning.

However, they continue to rely on American and coalition support to fill several key capability gaps, a US report said on Monday.

The report from US Government Accountability Office on Afghanistan Security found the Department of Defense lacked reliable information on how well Afghan forces operated and maintained this equipment.

It added the department had little direct contact with front-line units that made up about three-quarters of the Afghan forces.

A copy of the report was sent to the House Armed Services Committee. The US has allocated about USD84 billion for Afghan security in the 17-year from 2002 through 2018.

“Since Resolute Support began, the ANDSF have improved some capabilities … but face several capability gaps that leave them reliant on coalition assistance, according to publicly available DoD reporting,” it said.

ANA corps and police zones generally have improved in some capability areas since Resolute Support began, with some components performing better than others, the report said.

For example, the Afghan ministries have improved in operational planning, strategic communications and coordination. In general, the ANA is more capable than the police. This is due, in part, to the ANA having more coalition advisors and monitoring than the police force. The Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police, and the justice system are both underdeveloped, it added.

Corruption, understaffing and training shortfalls have also contributed to th underdevelopment of police, according to DoD and SIGAR.

The Afghan Special Security Forces are the most capable within the ANDSF and can conduct the majority of their operations without coalition enablers.

Afghan Special Security Forces’ relative proficiency is attributed to factors such as low attrition rates, longer training, and close partnership with coalition forces.

The Afghan Air Force is becoming increasingly capable, and can independently plan and perform some operational tasks, such as armed overwatch and aerial escort missions, it concluded.



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30 PSs in Kunduz declared high risk areas

Monitoring Desk

KUNDUZ CITY: Out of 220 polling stations set up in Kunduz province, people have registered as voters in only 98 stations and among these 30 stations face high security threats.

Rassoul Omar, Independent Election Commission (IEC) head for Kunduz, told Pajhwok Afghan News voter registration process did not take place in 122 polling stations of the province due to security problems.

“There are a total of 220 polling stations in Kunduz, but people visited only 98 of them,” he said.

He added 18 of the polling stations faced medium and 12 other high security risks.

“The voting process may probably not take place in these polling stations for being very sensitive,” he said.

Omar did not say where these high risk polling stations exist, but said most of them are in districts.

He said the list of all polling stations had been shared with security organs in order to ensure their security on the Election Day.

Zabihullah Majeedi, a Wolesi Jirga candidate in Kunduz, told Pajhwok that bad security situation had created problems for the upcoming polls.

“The voter registration process could not be launched in many polling stations. The government should ensure security of at least the polling stations where people have taken their voter cards, so they are able to participate in the democratic process,” he said. He expressed concern that candidates would be seriously affected by closure of polling stations.

Majeedi asked security officials to take serious security measures for safety of voters during the Election Day. Haji Akbar Kheyabani, a resident of Kunduz City, said it was difficult to hold elections outside Kunduz City and in district centers.

“Security is not good even on the outskirts of Kunduz city, Taliban have also warned people against participating in the polls,” he said.

Some other residents of Kunduz expressed similar views and asked the government to ensure foolproof security on the Election Day.

Kunduz police chief, Col. Abdul BaqiNuristani, said they had launched operations in areas under high security threat. “We have launched operations to improve security and people would be able to participate in polls, we are also busy deploying new security posts,” he said. He said no one would be allowed to disrupt the election process.

The Wolesi Jirga elections are scheduled for October 20.




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Nangarhar traders, candidates talk economic policies

Monitoring Desk

JALALABAD: Traders in eastern Nangarhar province have urged Wolesi Jirga candidates to address problems the business community has been facing after winning the Oct 20 elections.

The businessmen raised their demand during a roundtable talks with Wolesi Jirga candidates. The event was organized by the Entrepreneurs Global Support Organization here.

Dr. Sher Ali Mohammad, the organization member, said the purpose of the roundtable to hear economic policies of the Wolesi Jirga hopefuls.

He said Chamber of Commerce and Industry representatives, mining company’s officials and candidates associated with businesses attended the talks.

He added they would support candidates who offered best policy which could address traders’ problems.

Syed Jamal Pacha, a Wolesi Jirga candidate said insecurity and corruption were main issues that threatened and damaged businesses and trade in Nangarhar.

Lawmaker Amir Khan Yar in response no work done for business community by the Wolesi Jirga, said the issue not lied in legislation, but in implementation of laws.

The Wolesi Jirga elections are scheduled for October 20 and people are concerned about the security situation, he added.



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UN stresses domestic observers’ role in polls

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has stressed the role of domestic observers, candidate agents and political party monitors in preventing fraud in the parliamentary election.

Speaking at a meeting with domestic observers in Kabul on Monday, Secretary-General’s Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto noted the critical role that each observer could play in deterring electoral fraud.

“Extensive and informed coverage by non-partisan observers and candidate agents at the more than 5,000 polling centres is crucial,” said Yamamoto, who is also head of UNAMA.

“Their presence represents one of the most effective instruments to detect and deter fraud,” remarked the top UN diplomat.

More than 250,000 domestic observers, candidates’ agents and political party monitors have sought accreditation to scrutinise the elections on October 20.

“Afghan observers are guardians of the electoral process,” said Yamamoto, “while candidates bear the primary responsibility for preventing fraud by instructing their supporters not to commit fraud in their names.

“The lead role by domestic observers underscored that this is an Afghan-owned elections\ process, with Afghans acting as the final arbiter of the result. There are no international observers deployed in polling centres in Afghanistan’s 2018 parliamentary elections.”

The United Nations is mandated to support Afghan authorities in technical issues around the electoral process.

The UN in Afghanistan has no monitoring or observation mandate in the parliamentary vote.