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Afghanistan Orders Ban on Telegram, WhatsApp

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(Last Updated On: November 3, 2017)

Afghanistan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA) has ordered telecom companies to block Telegram and WhatsApp applications, reasoning security concerns.

According to two official letters went viral, ATRA asked telecom companies to shut the applications for 20 days starting 01 Nov.

In addition, it instructs the companies to block a number of Facebook and Twitter accounts as well.

“Based on the sensitivity of the issue, effective immediately all telecom companies are requested to block all websites and individuals facebook and twitter accounts as provided in the list,” one of the letters reads.

Reports suggest that the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, has asked the ministry of telecommunication to do so due to security concerns.

“This is an illegal act. The government has no right to violate individuals privacy or block their personnel accounts,” civil rights defender Sediqullah Tawhidi told Ariana News.

Meanwhile, the decision was widely criticized by social media users.

One wrote: “President Ashraf Ghani! don’t ban apps, fire people who can’t do their jobs. By hiding failures, you wouldn’t be able to achieve anything.”

Another composed: “Censorship is against what freedom we stood for in Afghanistan post 2001. Gains shouldn’t go to waste.”

This comes as the presidential palace said the government is committed for the freedom of expression and has no agenda for censorship.

By Hesamuddin Hesam

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Taliban ‘prevents’ 3.5 million children from getting polio vaccine

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

More than 3.5 million children have been deprived of anti-polio vaccinations due to restrictions imposed by the Taliban in several provinces, the Ministry of Public Health claimed Saturday.

The Ministry stated that the Taliban’s restrictions on the house-to-house vaccination campaign has increased from three to ten percent of homes in the last three years.

Mirjan Rasikh, head of the Polio Eradication Program said: “Although the Taliban promised to cooperate in implementing the vaccine, they have prevented it more so than in the past.”

“Children in Paktia and Maidan Wardak have missed the immunity doses against the polio virus due to the Taliban’s restrictions,” Rasikh said.

The vaccination campaign began last week.

The Taliban not only failed to cooperate with the process but also prevented thousands of children from getting the vaccine in Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Kunduz, Takhar, Paktika, and Paktia provinces, the Public Health Ministry said.

A number of civil society activists in eastern provinces have meanwhile called on the Taliban to allow the vaccination campaign to be implemented in areas under their control.

“The Taliban prevented the campaign in areas under their control. We asked them to allow the children to get the vaccine,” Sayeed Jamal Asifkhel, a Paktia civil society activist stated.

Meanwhile, children in Bamiyan, Daikundi, and Ghor provinces also missed out on the vaccine program as healthcare workers were prevented from rolling out the vaccines due to poor weather conditions.

In November last year, the Taliban announced that the group would cooperate in implementing the vaccination campaign, but later the group’s spokesman told Ariana News that the campaign was stopped due to what he put down to “abuses” during the vaccination process.

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Andarabi claims Taliban ‘playing for time’

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Masoud Andarabi, Minister of Interior Affairs, said Saturday the Taliban is playing for time in the ongoing peace negotiations in Doha and waiting to see what the new US administration decides following the inauguration of Joe Biden last week.

Biden’s administration has confirmed that they will review the US-Taliban agreement signed in February last year and that they will assess whether the Taliban has met the conditions as per the deal, which includes ensuring a reduction in violence and the cutting of all ties with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

According to the deal, if Taliban meets the conditions, Washington will withdraw the last of its troops by May.

Andarabi meanwhile said in an interview with BBC, that the Taliban has increased the level of violence and ramped up targeted attacks across the country in a bid to pressurize the government into giving in to their demands.

He said the group wants the government to release the remaining Taliban prisoners and to accept an Islamic Emirate.

Andarabi also said the Taliban believes in conflict as a solution.

“The Taliban are waiting for the withdrawal of US forces and the group is targeting civil society activists and journalists in order to [get the government to] release more [Taliban] prisoners, as well as to impose Islamic Emirate ideology in governing,” he said.

The Interior Minister added that the Taliban attacks jeopardize all hard-won achievements of the last two decades.

“How committed are they (Taliban) to the values that we have gained with giving hundreds and thousands of sacrifices?” Andarabi asked.

The Taliban has not commented yet. The group, however, has frequently emphasized its commitment to bringing peace to Afghanistan.

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Trump’s impeachment trial to start in two weeks

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Former US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial will begin in two weeks, the Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said.

This will be the first such trial to take place after a president has left office. Donald Trump meanwhile also became the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

Schumer said late Friday that Trump’s impeachment trial will begin in the week of February 8.

“The Senate will conduct a trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump. It will be a full trial. It will be a fair trial,” Schumer said.

The top Democratic leader in the Senate announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans, news agencies reported.

According to the timeline, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the former president’s trial on the charge of “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly riot at the US capitol on January 6.

The initial proceeding will begin Tuesday, and Trump’s legal team will have time to prepare the case before opening arguments begin in February.

The timeline amounts to a two-week delay and allows the Senate to conduct normal business as a new administration takes charge.

Trump was impeached for inciting a mob of his angry supporters who ransacked the US Capitol building in an attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election, which Trump falsely claimed was “stolen.”

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