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Barca have 25 shots on goal but fail to score in draw against Lyon

Wasteful Barcelona could not convert any of their 25 shots in a goalless Champions League last-16 first-leg draw against Lyon.

Usually so proficient in front of goal, Barca’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Phillipe Coutinho were all denied by Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.

Lyon had chances, too, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen brilliantly tipped Martin Terrier’s long-range shot onto the bar.

The return leg takes place at the Nou Camp on Wednesday, 13 March.

Champions Barca are top of La Liga, seven points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid, but they have not won Europe’s premier competition since 2015 when they defeated Juventus in the final.

Going into this tie, Ernesto Valverde’s side were heavy favourites to progress to the quarter-finals for the 11th consecutive season, but their poor finishing leaves the tie in the balance.

The Catalans have now drawn four of their last five games in all competitions and should have netted twice in the opening four minutes but Ousmane Dembele scuffed off target and Messi dinked a free-kick over.

When Barca did call on Lopes, they found the Lyon number one in superb form, springing high in the second half to tip over Sergio Busquets’ drive, the best of his five saves in the game.

French club Lyon, the only side to beat runaway Ligue 1 leaders Paris St-Germain this season, could have snatched a goal themselves but Houssem Aouar’s strike was pushed away by Germany international Ter Stegen and Memphis Depay screwed a shot wide from the angle.

Meanwhile, Some Liverpool fans might be disappointed with Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich, but I think Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will be quite happy with how the tie is poised.

It is true that Liverpool did not create anything like the kind of chances they would normally do, but that was not because Klopp decided to ditch the attacking football that saw his side blow teams away on their way to last season’s final.

The reason this Champions League last-16 first leg was so cagey was not down to the Reds. It was because of Bayern’s defensive game plan, and how well they executed it.

I am not expecting their tactics to be dramatically different in the second leg next month but, even if the Bundesliga champions only push on a little more at home, that will suit Liverpool’s strength on the counter-attack.

I know Bayern’s home record in the Champions League is formidable – they have only suffered three defeats in their past 30 games since the end of 2013, all of them at the hands of Real Madrid, who went on to win the competition on each occasion.

But I would argue that their current team is quite average in comparison to the ones that have made the Allianz Arena such a fortress in the past five years.

When I look through the Bayern side, it does not really frighten me the way it did in the past when the likes of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben were in full flow.

Bayern are still a good side, though, and they are well-organised and clever. They had clearly done their homework and made very few mistakes defensively at Anfield, and at the back they read the game very well.

But they never really looked like getting an away goal, which means there is a good chance they will have to win the return on 13 March to go through.

If they go on the attack at any time, they have to be very wary of Liverpool’s threat on the counter.

It means the tie is left perfectly balanced. I am sure Bayern will believe the scenario suits them, but I would be confident Klopp’s side can go there and score, which is another reason why drawing 0-0 is not the worst result in the world.

I also think Liverpool will be much improved from the performances we saw from them on the road in the group stage, when they lost all three of their away games.

In many ways the tournament starts for real in the last 16, because this is such a step up in class, but Klopp’s side will be switched on and ready for the task ahead.

This game was seen as a test of how Liverpool would cope without the suspended Virgil van Dijk against Robert Lewandowski, and they kept the Poland striker very quiet.

That was largely down to Bayern’s tactics of course, because Lewandowski had no service and, especially in the second half, very little support.

I was still impressed by how well the Liverpool defence played, though, and it will have been a big confidence boost that they kept a clean sheet without their best defender.

Even with Bayern sitting back after the break, Liverpool’s defence still had to keep their concentration.

I was impressed by every member of their back four but, as a makeshift defender, Fabinho did particularly well.

He might usually be a defensive midfielder but the Brazilian looked comfortable throughout. At times he took a couple of chances with his tackling, but he always got it right.

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2,500 illegal armed groups still operate

Monitoring Desk

MAZAR-I-SHARIF: The Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups program officials on Wednesday said 2, 500 illegal armed groups continued to operate in the country’s north zone.

DIAG program chief for the northern region, Gen. Abdul Manan Abid told Pajhwok Afghan News that illegal armed groups posed huge threat to peace and stability than militants. He said illegal armed groups in northern Afghanistan had a direct negative impact on the ongoing insecurities, calling illegal armed groups more dangerous than Taliban and Daesh.

Abid said Daesh and Taliban militants were known and daily clashes with security forces but illegal armed men roamed freely in villages, cities and streets, insulting and intimidating citizens.

Without naming any party, the DIAG head said most of the illegal armed groups had the backing of political parties in the north. According to him, 2, 500 illegal armed groups have been operating in the northern region of the country.

Abid, who received 20 weapons from the provincial police headquarters, said the confiscation of these guns would not have a significant effect on the security situation. Abdul Qadir Misbah, a political expert, told Pajhwok that the presence of illegal armed men had hugely concerned local people.

Provincial deputy police chief Abdul Razeq Qadiri said police captured 20 various types of weapons during different security incidents over the past few weeks and handed the guns over to DIAG programme today. (Pajhwok)

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A Jawzjan widow who educated her seven children

Monitoring Desk

SHIBERGHAN: A widowed woman in northern Jawzjan province saved her seven children from begging on streets and made her life comfortable by selling dairy products in a misogynic environment.

The woman, Sharifa, is 55 years old and is the mother of seven educated children. In an interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, she said the Taliban during their ‘dark’ regime severely tortured her husband and he could not recover from his pains and wounds and died.

“I tried a lot inside the country and even went to Pakistani hospitals to treat my husband, but my efforts could not save him,” she said.

With many good memories of her husband still on her mind, Sharifa sighed for separation from her spouse but said she was still able to provide a good life to her children and not let them feel deprived.

She was alone with her children after the death of her husband and was struggling after having spent all her assets on treatment of her spouse.

“We had no proper house for living, I finally decided and built three rooms from mud with my children, I prepared a bag for my son to sell chewing gums and cigarettes, my son’s sales improved and we built a boat for him but one night thieves stole our boat and we started again from zero,” she said. She said next she started selling dairy products such as milk, yogurt, butter, cheese and others from local sources to shops.

“I educated my seven children thanks to my dairy business, I now want to engage my third son, some of my children have completed bachelor’s and others are in high school, I am their power and I am happy with my income,” Sharifa added. She said she recently opened a shop for her younger son to make him busy.

Zabihullah, a shopkeeper in Shiberghan, who buys dairy products from Sharifa, said, “I buy around 80 kilograms of dairy products from this woman a day, she brings butter, yogurt, curd, milk and other products.” He said the products the woman prepared were of high quality and had good market.

“I know buying products from this woman is good both for me and her, I meet the requirements of customers and she meets the needs of her family,” he added.

Halima, in charge of families coordination affairs at the Agriculture Department of Jawzjan, said, “We cover around 200 women who suffer from bad economy in training programs for preparing dairy products and animal husbandry.”

“One of these women is Sharifa who was able to make her life better,” she said, adding the aim of their programs was to empower women so they were able to stand on their feet and improve their living standard. (Pajhwok)

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‘Khost Women Park used to personal advantage’

Monitoring Desk

KHOST CITY: Municipality officials, civil society activists and residents on Wednesday accused the provincial Women’s Affairs director of southeastern Khost province of using the only women park to her own advantage.

They said Malali Wali was not a qualified person to run the provincial women’s affairs department and accused her of using government resources in personal interests.

They also claimed some individuals who have connection with Malali Wali have set up shops in the women’s park south of Khost City, the provincial capital. The residents said works done at the park were against the law.

Zainab Afghan, the ‘National Arman’ women’s association head, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the women’s affair head MalaliWali had created small shops in the only women park for her personal benefit.

She said the park had been grabbed by Malali Wali’s son and another individual namely Bahlwan and had illegally constructed bathes. However, she warned they would not allow anyone to play with women’s rights and fate.” We will continue to complain until the issue is addressed,” Afghan added.

Nadia Bawari, another civil society activist, told Pajhwok that those having grabbed their park should be introduced to judicial organs. She said the Women Park was built with the aim to provide women and children recreational opportunity. She said the park, a property of the provincial municipality, was gifted by President Ghani to women almost 10n months back.

Meanwhile, Mayor Eng. Abdul Basir Mohammadzai termed the women’s affairs leadership as weak to use the women park in a right way.

He said the park had not been given in women’s authority and some small bathes were set up overnight in the park on the orders of Malalai Wali.

He said: “We are concerned that the income from the park to the municipality will be lost and the women’s affairs department will also not generate revenue from it because the park is not a venture. Another concern is that our park will be in a very bad condition because the women’s affairs department has no budget for it.”

Abdul Nasir and Samiullah, two residents of Khost city, told Pajhwok that women and children used to sit on roadsides due to lack of a appropriate place for them.

Meanwhile, a number of Khost City residents also expressed similar views and demanded an early solution to the issue. (Pajhwok)

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Ministry inaugurates e-governance center in Kabul

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology inaugurated the first Electronic Governance Centre in Kabul city.

The center aims to eradicate corruption in governmental institutions and agencies and will handle a wide range of services in this field, including the delivery of electronic identity cards, work licenses, driving licenses, certificates and passports.

“It will help people to overcome the challenges they face around traffic system, health, education, voting, passport and all these issues are tackled with the help of their identity cards. It will also help in overcoming corruption in the country” said Shahzad Aryubi, Minister of Communications and Information Technology.

Electronic governance or e-governance is the application of information and communication technology for delivering government services, exchange of information, integration of various stand-alone systems and services between government-to-citizen, government-to-business, government-to-government, government-to-employees as well as back-office processes and interactions within the entire government framework.

Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology also said that the Electronic Governance Centre could improve efficiency as well as increase capacity to deliver quality services to Afghan citizens in the public sector in the country and could increase their participation in governance.

“It will help people to overcome the challenges they face around traffic system, health, education, voting, passport and all these issues are tackled with the help of their identity cards,” the minister said.

It helps people to save their time and bring ease in processing their works and decrease corruption, said Humayoun Qayoumi, Acting Minister of Finance.

Afghans have been constantly complaining about the problems they face in government institutions in the delivery of services.E-Governance Centre could improve efficiency and effectiveness of the government, increase capacity for delivering quality public services and will increase capacity to deliver quality services to Afghan citizens in the public sector in the country. (1TVNews)

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Votel reaffirms continued US support to Afghan forces

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Commander of the US Central Commander Gen. Joseph Votel reaffirmed continued support of the United States to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

In his meeting with the Afghan National Security Adviser Dr. Hamdullah Mohib, Gen. Votel said United States supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. He also added that the United States will remain alongside the Afghan government and people of Afghanistan.

The Office of the National Security Council in a statement said Gen. Votel also emphasized that the regional countries should take practical steps in the fight against terrorism.

The statement further added that Dr. Mohib in his turn hailed the United States for the continued support in various sectors specifically in equipping and strengthening the Afghan armed forces.

Dr. Mohib also hailed the role of the United States for the facilitation of peace talks and thanked the US Special Advisor for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for his efforts. The statement by Office of the National Security Council also added that the two sides also held talks regarding security related issues. (Khaama Press)

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NPC approves 26 procurement cases

onitoring Desk

KABUL: The National Procurement Commission (NPC) approved 26 procurement related cases during its last session.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said 29 procurement related cases were reviewed the meeting and 26 of them were approved with a total value of 6.3 billion Afghanis.

Some of the main contracts which were approved during the meeting include contract for Logar International Airport feasibility study project, check and service of 8 scanners (600 series) in Customs Directorate of the Ministry of Finance, and procurement of land for Afghanistan’s Embassy in Holland.

The statement further added that Ministry of Urban Development and Land also presented its request for instructions regarding the procurement process of Administrative Complex in Dar-ul-Aman area which was reviewed and scrutinized and as a result a decision was taken that the previously agreed procurement process will be cancelled and the process will resumed on single stage basis as per the decree (issue#100).

The National Procurement Commission cancelled the project of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology for the procurement of information technology equipment, establishment of computer labs and contacts with 290 schools via fiber optics and it was decided that the project should be implemented in a government to organization contract with India.

In the meantime, the National Procurement Commission approved the request of the Railway Department for the detailed design and construction of 43 kilometers of railway track from Khwaf to Herat through government to government contract with Kazakhstan.

The request for the modification of the executive contract and the financing contract of Bayat Power project was also approved during the meeting. (Khaama Press)

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Samar stresses women’s role in peace talks

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Sima Samar, Chairperson of Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), on Wednesday said the peace process should be inclusive and consultative.

Addressing an event in Kabul, Samar said the people of Afghanistan should be involved in the peace process and that it has been experienced in peace agreements that people were not involved in.

Samar warned that there will be no lasting peace in the country when human rights values are taken into deal in peace talks.

“As long as the presence of women in peace talks is not meaningful, there will be no lasting peace,” Samar added.

Meanwhile, acting foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani speaking at the event said that he will never let that the current system will be dealt with the Taliban in peace talks.

Rabbani said that women should have an active role in the peace process and all parties must accept that women’s rights are not negotiable.

Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for regional affairs on consensus for peace, Mohammad Umer Daudzai said that war is not the solution and that peace will come in 2019.

“There is evidence which indicates that peace will come in 2019 because war is not the solution and now all the parties admit that there needs to be a political solution for the Afghanistan problem,” Daudzai.

Daudzai also said that negotiations between the Taliban and the US are essential and before the talks start between the Taliban and the US, the government and the politicians were consulted about and they were in favor of the talks.

“Majority of our politicians have agreed that US-Taliban talks should be preliminary stages of talks, but not be the final,” said Daudzai.

Daudzai also said that US agreed in a meeting with Taliban on principle on troops withdrawal after peace is achieved and when all Afghans agreed on US withdrawal.

“It is expected that in the meeting which is expected to be held on 25th February in Doha the Taliban will come to negotiate with more authority,” Daudzai added.

Daudzai also said that the peace consultative meeting will be held in the March.

“The Loya Jirga will be held on 3rd of March and will continue for three days,” Daudzai

“Our values and red lines in negotiations with the Taliban in peace talks will be discussed in the Loya Jirga for peace and the role of women will be 30 percent in the formation of Loya Jirga both from capital and provinces,” Daudzai added.

Daudzai also said that there are yet obstacles and challenges ahead of Talks between the Taliban and the government.

“Talks between the Taliban and the government have not started yet, there are obstacles and challenges and there are options to remove the obstacles, one is military option, second is regional encouragement means to encourage the Taliban,” Daudzai added.

Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass speaking at the event calls for a comprehensive approach to talks with the Taliban to keep current achievements in peace talks.

“We want to see and help you create an Afghanistan in which all its citizens can live in peace and dignity. It is very clear to us that the people of this country want and earn peace. And so also our sense of urgency in trying to create that important negotiation and discussion in between all afghans is based in a response to your desire for peace,” said Bass.

“And that is why we through ambassador Khalilzad are talking to the Taliban and try to get the Taliban to sit with of all of the people of this county but that does not that we are substituting ourselves in talking to the Taliban for the government of Afghanistan or the people of Afghanistan. In discussion about those issues that only Afghans can decide for yourselves. The terms of peace are for Afghans to decide because only if you decide and agreed among yourselves will peace be durable. Now when we say that these are issues for Afghans to decide that does not mean my government is in different to the outcome,” Bass added.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) will place the results of the Inquiry on the National Women, Peace and Security Inquiry and then share it with the people, the government and the international community. (TOLOnews)

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General Votel meets Afghan President

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) met Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani at the Presidential Palace here on Tuesday (February 19).

According to a presidential office press release available with Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), both the sides discussed various key issues including training of security and defence forces, peace process and joint war on terrorism.

General Joseph Votel said his job would come to an end soon. A person aware of the conditions of Afghanistan would fill his position, he added. He would continue working in coordination with the people of Afghanistan.

On the occasion, President Ghani lauded the cooperation of General Joseph Votel with Afghanistan and said the Afghan security and defence forces had strengthened compared to the pats. (AIP)

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Regional states may get greater role in Afghan-led talks

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani and US special representative for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad have agreed on a new mechanism to advance the reconciliation process. Presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansouri, addressing a press conference said Ghani and Khalilzad had conferred on a wide range of issues around the Afghan peace process.

Under the new mechanism agreed with Khalilzad, actions would be taken based on the framework to advance the peace process, Chakhansouri promised.

On the Afghan-led peace process, he suggested the situation in Islamic countries should be considered and further talks should take place on a new framework.

Khalilzad said a day earlier they had discussed four issues — Taliban’s relations with Al Qaeda, the presence of US troops, direct talks with the Afghan government and a nationwide ceasefire in several meetings with the Taliban.

He called a ceasefire and direct talks with the Afghan government were the most important issues. All issues are inter-related and the Afghan government should have a central role in decisions in this regard.

Chakhansuri added there was regional and international consensus and efforts were being made to strengthen it in order to enhance the role of regional countries in Afghan-led talks. He said Khalilzad was expected to meet Taliban representatives on February 25 in Qatar. The Afghan negotiating team would take part if Taliban agree on direct talks with the government.

Chakhansouri confirmed amendments to electoral law had been made after an agreement with political parties, movements, presidential candidates and civil society activists. The spokesman said preparations were underway for elections, promising presidential, provincial council and district council polls would be held on schedule. (Pajhwok)