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Huge turnout at registration centers: Election Commission

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Over 230,000 people, including 52,790 women have registered themselves as voters throughout the country and more people have been coming for registration, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) says on Sunday.

IEC Chief Abdul Badei Sayyad told reporters here the voter registration process was under way smoothly and the turnout of people at the registration centres was greater.

“Until Saturday, 230,122 eligible persons that included 174,182 men, 52,790 women and 3,115 Kochi have so far registered themselves as voters,” said the IEC chief.

The voter registration process kicked off in the country on April 14. President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah and other high ranking officials had registered themselves as voters and asked the people to fully participate in the voter registration process.

Sayyad said the IEC officials held weekly meetings with security officials who he added always reiterated their support for security of the election process.

Security officials also pledged that no one would be allowed to commit fraud or rigging during election and asked government officials.

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Hekmatyar, Cornelius discuss upcoming elections

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Head of Hizb-e-Islami Engineer Gulbadin Hekmatyar and NATO civil representative Cornelius Zimmermann discussed the upcoming parliamentary election during a meeting in Kabul.

Various key issues, including restoration of peace to Afghanistan, upcoming parliamentary election and the role of political parties were discussed in the meeting, Hizb-e-Islami media official Fazal Ghani Haqmal told Afghan Islamic Press (AIP).

The Wolesi Jirga and district council polls would be held on October 20, 2018. The voter registration process for this purpose is already in progress.

The Hizb-e-Islami has demanded of the government to ensure free and transparent election in the country. Hekmatyar has urged the nation to register their names in the voter lists and take part in the polls.



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Three Taliban killed in clash

Monitoring Desk

KUNDUZ: Three Taliban fighters were killed and two pro-government armed uprising volunteers were injured in a clash in Yangi Qilla district in Takhar province on Sunday.

Gunfight erupted between Taliban fighters and the gunmen of a pro-government commander Malik Tatar in Hazara Qashlaq area in Yangi Qilla district, Takhar police spokesman Abdul Khalil Aseer told Afghan Islamic Press (AIP).

Three Taliban fighters, including a commander identified as Mullah Adil were killed and two uprising volunteers were injured in the clash, he said. The situation had returned to normalcy in the area, he added.

Separately, the residents of newly established Aqtash district in Kunduz said the Afghan forces launched operation in the district. No gunfight has occurred in the area so far. However, jet aircrafts were hovering over the district. Officials in Kunduz and Taliban have not said anything in this regard so far.

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Increasing targeted killings worry Ghazni residents

Monitoring Desk

GHAZNI CITY: Residents of southern Ghazni province say targeted killings have increased, with 10 people murdered in such attacks last month. One individual was killed in Qala-i-Sabz, two in Barakat Qala, two in Cinema, as many in Drayem Plan, two in Khoda-i-Dad and one in Yousafzai areas.

Roohullah, a resident of the Ghazni, told Pajhwok Afghan News targeted attacks involving silent pistols had surged. “The killings don’t happen in remote areas but near police headquarters.

“What kind of police and intelligence do we have? They cannot prevent such assaults,” the man asked, seeking effective measures to curb targeted attacks. Ahmadullah (not a real name), said his brother — a police officer — had been killed with a silent pistol some days back. “My brother was killed near a security check-post in Sabz Qala area. His killers fled the area and are yet to be captured.”

On the other hand, a police sourcetold Pajhwok on condition of anonymitythat 10 targeted killings had been recorded last month when 10 others were wounded. Other residents held similar views, calling on the central government to take effective steps and stop the practice.

Arif, the governor’s spokesman, said six individuals had been killed in targeted attacks last month. “Mostof the time policemen remain without rifles or go to places where such incidentsare common.”

He said seven suspects had been detained in connection with targeted killings and efforts were underway to capture the others as well.

But, provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Mohammad Zaman said two people were killed last month. He ordered police to bring the perpetrators to justice.


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Afghan government wins international trust: WB

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The World Bank has said the Afghan government was able to gain international trust for its reform programs despite global assistance declined to Afghanistan. Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank’s country director for Afghanistan expressed the views during a meeting in the US based Afghan embassy.

The meeting was also participated by Afghan Economy Minister Eklil Hakimi and representatives of major donor countries to Afghanistan. Chauduhuri talked about the importance of Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) program in the meeting.

He said the Afghan government was able to win international trust with the help of implementing reform programs, despite global assistance to Afghanistan has been declined since 2014.

Considering to its geographic location, Afghanistan can play a greater role in expanding commercial and economic relations between central and southern Asia, he added. He added Afghanistan was a rich country in having natural resources, saying minerals and gas were better sources for the self-reliance of this country.

The World Bank would support Afghanistan in the mentioned areas through its ARTF program, Chaudhuri said. Representatives of the USAID, EU, WB, UK, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Canada and other countries attended the huddle.



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Elections impossible in five districts of Helmand

Monitoring Desk

LASHKARGAH: Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials on Sunday said polls could not be held in five districts of southern Helmand province.

Local law-enforcement officials had earlier promised ensuring security in most areas of Helmand ahead of parliamentary and district council elections, set for October this year.

Ahmad Shah Sahibzada, IEC’s acting head for Helmand, told Pajhwok Afghan News the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the commission’s head office had told them conducting elections was not possible in five districts.

The insecure districts include Baghran, Musa Qala, Nawzad, Khanshin and Dishu, which were under Taliban control, the IEC official said.

Sahibzada added they had employed officers to handle poll-related election affairs in the five districts but enforcing order there was the responsibility of security organs.

Except Nawa and Greshk, all other districts are under threat from Taliban militants. The government controls 50 percent territory in Nawa and Greshk districts.

Even the third police district of Lashkargah, the provincial capital, has been a battleground while the fourth police district is fully controlled by the insurgents.

Governor Hayatullah Hayatalso acknowledged that voter registration and holding elections in the five districts would not be possible.

He said that they had suggested voting on the basis of electoral districts so that rights of those who were unable to cast ballots were not violated.

Attaullah Afghan, the Helmand provincial council head, warned the elections would be symbolic in the province if a pre-poll clearing operation was not conducted.

He said six districts including Sangin were under Taliban control. The government had sway over office complexes in Marja, Garmser, Kajaki and Washir districts.

Naad Ali district is also not ready for elections. Polls could be conducted only in Nawa and Greshk districts, Afghan said, adding elections in Helmand should be based on electoral district.

In the last one week, 6,000 people in Helmand have registered as voters.



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Kabul: 57 dead in voter registration office suicide blast

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: At least 57 people were killed and about 119 more wounded in a suicide attack targeting a center for distribution of national identity cards in Qilla Nazar area in Dasht-e-Burchi Phus in Kabul city on Sunday (April 22).

A suicide bomber targeted a center for distribution of national identity cards in Qilla Nazar area in the sixth security zone of Kabul city at around 10 am, killing and injuring dozens of people, interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told Afghan Islamic Press (AIP).

The dead and injured included women and children, he added.

Meanwhile, public health ministry spokesman Waheed Majrooh said more than 57 people were killed and 119 more injured in the bombing. The dead included 22 women and five children, he said.

The injured including 52 women and 17 children were taken to various hospitals in Kabul, he added.

According to Afghan officials, the dead and injured were civilians who were collecting their national identity cards from the center.

A voter registration facility also existed in the area.

President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah, former president Hamid Karzai and others condemned the bombing.

According to a presidential office press release available with Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) President Ghani condemned the suicide attack.

“The terrorists, who do not believe in any Islamic, national and democratic norms, should realize that by doing such crimes they could not damage the determination of our people to openly participate in democratic processes.

The media center of Islamic State or Daesh, Amaq claimed responsibility for the attack by releasing a brief statement on internet.

On the other side, Taliban said they were not involved in the incident.

It is pertinent to mention here that six persons were killed and 10 more injured when explosives went off under a car outside a voter registration center in Baghlan’s capital Pule Khumri city today.

The presidential office condemned the bombing. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast so far.

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Ghani says Afghanistan witnessing change of culture

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani has said that Afghanistan was witnessing a changing culture with the success of criteria over relations.

President Ghani was addressing a ceremony on Saturday to mark the introduction of the heads of trade attaches, procurement agencies, the nature and development of new programmes of change in the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission and inauguration of the new building for the commission. The leadership of the commission presented a report to the president about the achievements of a new programme under the title of change.

The president lauded the proposal about comprehensive reforms, effective spending in agencies and expedited steps in economic development. The president inaugurated the new building for the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission. He also visited various sectors of the commission. Head of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission Ahmad Nadar Nadari was accompanying the president. Later, he attended a ceremony held to introduce new heads of commercial attaches and chairmen of procurement departments in various government agencies.

Head of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, Ahmad Nadar Nadari presented a comprehensive report about the achievements of the commission in the past one year. He said the agencies of Afghanistan should strive for stability. The goal could only be achieved by a neutral, non-political and efficient agency, which is standing on outcome and surround the masses. The appointment of commercial attaches had been done under a transparent process, he said. For the first time, he said women were recruited in these teams. The appointment of the attaches was not made on the basis of political gifts rather they were the efficient and competent employees of Afghanistan outside the country.

President Ghani said they were witnessing a change of culture in Afghanistan. He went on to say that they lauded the success of criteria over relations every day. Addressing the newly appointed commercial attaches, the president said each of them would go to a country to represent Afghanistan as an administrative unit coming out of war.  He said the responsibility of the commercial attaches was to ensure trade growth, remove hurdles and utilize existing opportunities. He stressed that criteria should rule over relations. On the same level, he said it would maintain national unity and trust between the government, nation, society and private sector.

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MPs divided over move to impeach NDS chief

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The MPs move to impeach the National Directorate of Security, Masoom Stanekzai, last week has sparked sharp criticism by some lawmakers who said signatures gathered over the move had been “collected illegally”.

“Mr Speaker, I hope that this session will not move towards a rift. Review your decision, otherwise this is the house of people and we will not let any ‘bullying’ happen here,” said Mohammad Nazir Ahmadzai, an MP. “The chiefs committee is trying to include the summoning issue into its agenda instead of discussions on other matters,” MP Mirwais Yasini said.

Other MPs, who signed the petition to move to impeach the NDS chief, said their actions had been in accordance with the law. “Some people are acting against my decision because I have done my job based on the internal duties principle and in accordance with the Constitution,” Humayun Humayun, the first deputy speaker of the parliament, said.

“Supporting ‘illegal’ acts of government is not fair for a people’s representative,” said Zahir Qadeer, an MP from Nangarhar. The Wolesi Jirga, Lower House of Parliament, Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi meanwhile defended the decision to move to impeach the NDS chief. “Fifty MPs have signed (the petition) here (in the house) and have sent it to the chiefs committee,” Ibrahimi said.

This comes after MPs said this month that a surge in attacks in the country in recent months, particularly in Kabul, was due to Stanekzai’s “incompetence” – a claim Stanekzai himself has rejected. On April 7, the Wolesi Jirga summoned Stanekzai to answer questions over security concerns. However, the session was held behind closed doors.

Before heading to the session, Stanekzai said due to the current situation in the country, he could not discuss matters publicly as “I will explain issues in one way which will be misinterpreted the next day”.

The NDS chief was expected to be asked about the airstrike in Dasht-e-Archi district in Kunduz, the Taliban attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, and other recent insurgent attacks. But the MPs did not raise such questions, according to an MP who talked to TOLOnews after the session on April 7. However, one MP said Stanekzai had presented convincing statements during their closed session.

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AAF employs more laser-guided bombs against militants

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Afghan Air Force has employed more laser-guided bombs against the militants after the historic and maiden employment of the sophisticated bomb against Taliban last month.

“Last month the Afghan Air Force achieved a historic milestone with the Afghan Air Force A-29s conducting their first mission involving the release of a GBU-28 laser-guided bomb against a Taliban compound in Farah Province,” the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission said in a short online statement.

The statement further adds that “They’ve conducted more than five additional missions since then. 438th Air Expeditionary Wing continues to provide Train Advise Assist through the Resolute Support Mission resulting in increased progress and self-reliance by the Afghan Air Force.” The Afghan Air Force used the bomb to target a Taliban compound in Farah province last month.

“On March 22, the Afghan Air Force tasked the A-29 squadron to destroy a Taliban compound in Farah. The Afghan attack pilots were equipped with both guided and unguided bombs, and elected to employ the GBU-58 laser-guided bomb to avoid collateral damage,” according to a report by Resolute Support Mission. This comes as efforts are underway to boost the capabilities of the Afghan armed forces, particularly the Air Forces.

“Key pieces that you’re seeing is that the Afghan Air Force itself, one of the more lethal organizations they have, and one that we’re looking to triple in size by 2023, is conducting significantly more air operations in direct support of the ANDSF on the battlefield, to the tune of 500 more sorties this year than they did the year before,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, director of future operations, Resolute Support, in a December 2017 press conference.

Bunch also noted the Afghan forces conducted their combat operations through 2017 with the lowest level of support from the coalition forces in the 16-year war here, yet has seen some of the most success they’ve ever had.