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Afghanistan to release 400 ‘hard-core’ prisoners to start peace talks

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: August 9, 2020)

The Loya Jirga, or grand council, on Sunday officially agreed to release 400 Taliban prisoners so as to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks. 

The Jirga, made up of 3,200 tribal elders, community leaders and politicians, announced their decision on the third and final day of the gathering. 

“In order to remove an obstacle, allow the start of the peace process and an end of bloodshed, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban,” the assembly said in a resolution.

Within minutes, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, “Today, I will sign the release order of these 400 prisoners.”

In his closing speech Ghani said: “We have the capacity for peace, and most importantly, we have the moral courage that war is not the solution.”

He said both the people and government of Afghanistan accept the Taliban as a reality but it was now up to the Taliban to prove whether they accept the diversity and unity of Afghanistan or not.

“The Loya Jirga of Afghanistan made history today. The Afghan Loya Jirga wants to end the last 40 years” of war, he said. 

“Great courage is not in war, great courage is in peace,” he added. 

He also said the decision made collectively by the delegates proved it was a sign of the country’s national unity and the people’s belief in the constitution and system of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The release of the 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners has been a stumbling block in the peace talks process over the past few months, following the Doha agreement signed between the US and the Taliban. 

In accordance with the agreement, the Afghan government had to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. Over 4,600 have been released so far but the final 400, who were listed by the Taliban, has been a sticking point. 

Last week Ghani called for a Loya Jirga to make the decision. 

According to Reuters, talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government will start in Doha this week.

However, Ghani has said that the Taliban must agree to a complete ceasefire before talks can start. 

This latest move comes amid mounting pressure from the United States for Afghanistan and the Taliban to work out a peace deal. 

Ahead of November US elections, Trump is determined to fulfill a major campaign promise of ending America’s longest war.

The drawdown of troops is part of the US’s plan and will bring the number of US troops to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.


India’s COVID-19 caseload now over six million mark

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: September 28, 2020)

India’s confirmed coronavirus tally has bypassed the six million mark with another 82,170 cases reported in the past 24 hours. 

The health ministry reported that the COVID-19 caseload was now at 6,074,703.

At least 1,039 deaths were also recorded in the same period, taking total fatalities up to 95,542.

New infections in India, the world’s second-most populous country, are currently being reported faster than anywhere else in the world and are expected to surpass the US tally, which is at 7.1 million, within the next few weeks. 

According to Johns Hopkins University data, almost one in every three new infections reported in the world and one in every five reported coronavirus deaths came from India.

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Abdullah hopes Pakistan visit will ‘open new chapter’ in relations

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: September 28, 2020)

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said early Monday morning his visit to Islamabad will prove a unique opportunity for Afghanistan and Pakistan to exchange views on the intra-Afghan negotiations. 

In a post on Twitter, Abdullah said “I hope this visit will open a new chapter of mutual cooperation at all levels, especially on achieving a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan.”

He also confirmed he will leave for Islamabad Monday, for an official three-day visit and will be accompanied by a high-level Afghan delegation. 

Abdullah said he will meet with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi, the Chairman of the Senate, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Foreign Minister and other dignitaries.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, Abdullah will also deliver a key-note address at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad.

This will be Abdullah’s first visit to Pakistan as head of the HCNR and the first since 2008. 

“The visit will provide an opportunity for wide-ranging exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthening of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and people-to-people interaction,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry stated. 

“Pakistan attaches high importance to its fraternal ties with Afghanistan, rooted deep in shared history, faith, culture, values and traditions. 

“Pakistan fully supports all efforts for peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan people. The visit of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah will contribute to further strengthening amity, brotherhood and close cooperation between the two countries,” read the statement.


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Afghan peace negotiator says they hope to finalize agenda soon

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: September 27, 2020)

Afghan Peace Negotiator, Mawlawi Attaullah Lodin said Sunday that the Afghan team and the Taliban peace talks team have not yet reached a consensus on the agenda and framework for negotiations going forward. 

Lodin, whose video message was posted to the official Afghan negotiating team’s Twitter page said the team is fully aware of Afghanistan’s calls for an immediate ceasefire but that the talks are complicated and will need time for agreements to be reached. 

He said: “We hope to finalize the agenda and that both sides agree to it. Thereafter a ceasefire should be called.”

Lodin also raised the issue of the US-Doha agreement signed in February, which has become a point of contention between the two teams. 

The agreement led to the Afghan negotiating team meeting the Taliban team around the talks tables, which started two weeks ago. 

However, the Afghan government was not a party to the deal between the US and the Taliban, which does not recognize the Afghan government as legitimate. 

“We were not present in the deal, we have not signed the deal,” said Lodin. 

This comes after a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, Khairullah Khairkhwa, said on Saturday that the main point of contention in the ongoing intra-Afghan talks in Doha was that the Afghanistan Republic was refusing to deal with the current talks within the framework of the US-Taliban agreement.

He also stated that the second point of contention is that Shiite members say that decisions should not be based solely on Hanafi jurisprudence. The Afghan negotiating team want Hanafi, Shiite and human rights included.

Lodin said, however, that according to the Afghan constitution, the Shiites Jaʿfari jurisprudence, or Ja’fari Fiqh, can not be ignored. 

“We don’t want to experience what is going on in Yemen and Syria as there is conflict between majorities and minorities in those countries,” he said. 

Another Afghan talks team member Nader Nadery meanwhile said late Sunday night that the two teams had met earlier and discussions had lasted several hours. The discussions focused on the contentious issues and would continue, he said.

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