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Ghani Confirms Release of Three Top Haqqani Network Commanders

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(Last Updated On: November 13, 2019)

President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday confirmed that Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid, three top Haqqani Network commanders, have been conditionally released in exchange for the release of two foreign university professors who were kidnapped by the Haqqani Network in 2016.

Speaking at a televised press conference, Ghani said the negotiations was made in close cooperation with the U.S. in order to pave the way for face-to-face negotiations with the Taliban.

Ghani said the health of the two professors has been deteriorating while in the custody of the terrorists.

Kevin King, 61, from the U.S., and Timothy Weeks, 49, from Australia, were professors at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul.

The Afghan President added that the decision to conditionally release the prisoners was tough, but important and a humanitarian gesture.

He added that the decision was made after consulting with Afghanistan’s international allies, especially the United States of America.

“We have said that to reach a peace with dignity we have to pay this bitter price, but we will not sacrifice the rights of the people, our democratic principles, or women’s rights and achievements,” Ghani said.

The AUAF, in a statement, said it “is encouraged to hear reports of the possible release of our two colleagues, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks.”

“While AUAF is not part of these discussions, we continue to urge the immediate and safe return of our faculty members who have been held in captivity, away from their friends and families, for more than three years,” the AUAF statement said.

Anas Haqqani is the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani who is the leader of Haqqani network and Deputy Leader of the Taliban insurgent group. Mali Khan Zadran is a brother of the Haqqani Network’s Founder. Hafiz Rashid is the brother of Mullah Nabi Omari, a Guantanamo prisoner who was exchanged along other four men for captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl in 2014.

The announcement of prisoner swap comes a day after the Chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) visited Kabul and held talks with the Afghan National Security Advisor.

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Nominated US envoy to Pakistan says cooperation critical in peace efforts

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2020)

Nominated US envoy to Islamabad William Todd told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that cooperation between the two countries was essential for bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

“Peace in Afghanistan is in both our countries’ best interests, and effective US-Pakistani cooperation is essential to achieve that objective,” he said.

“Today, our countries recognize that we share a common interest in a durable peace in Afghanistan,” Todd told the Senate panel.

He also said Islamabad “played a critical role in creating the conditions that brought Afghan leaders and the Taliban to the historic start of Afghan Peace negotiations” but that Pakistan now has “an even more important role to play in supporting efforts toward a negotiated political settlement that ends 40 years of war.” 

“This is a moment of opportunity for Pakistan to continue to forge a new and better role in the region,” he said.

He said if his nomination was approved and he was appointed ambassador to Pakistan, one of his top priorities would be to encourage Pakistan to play this role.

“In terms of regional dynamics, although we have a strong relationship with India, that does not need to come at the expense of Pakistan,” he said. “I believe that under the right conditions, we can have a strong relationship with both countries.”

He also said he thought Washington’s close ties with Delhi and Islamabad could help reduce tensions in the region. 

“Our hope is that both countries will take the necessary steps to reduce tensions, and as President [Donald] Trump has offered, we are prepared to facilitate dialogue if both sides request it,” he said.

He also stated he would work with Pakistan to advance a “shared interest in eliminating terrorism from its territory and advancing security in the region.”

Todd, who was nominated by Trump earlier this year, told the Senate panel that Pakistan remained a difficult but essential US partner in South Asia, and Washington was seeking to reset its ties with Islamabad.

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Study finds growing gaps in equality for women in conflict zones

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2020)

A study by the International Rescue Committee has found that women and girls in conflict settings have not experienced global rates of progress in terms of gender equality over the past 25 years. 

The study found that despite global gains, rates of school enrollment, literacy, access to birth certificates, and more are deteriorating among women and girls in conflict settings.

The analysis looked across more than a dozen measures indicative of gender equality in ten “high-hosting countries” for refugees and internally displaced peoples — Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, and Uganda.

The findings indicated there has been a nearly 44 percent increase in refugees since 1995, with more than 26 million people registered as such in 2019. 

Across the ten countries selected for analysis, Afghanistan has the largest number of displaced persons at 2.7 million, with over a 350 percent increase in the number of internally displaced people. 

In some areas, gains for women and girls have been encouraging and in the past 25 years, there has been a 38 percent worldwide reduction in maternal mortality, with 211 deaths per 10,000 live births in 2017. 

Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Pakistan have all seen declines in maternal deaths of more than 50 percent.

The study found that although the world has seen an 11 percent increase in gender parity within primary and secondary school enrollment, countries including Afghanistan have never met this global standard. 

While literacy has improved more for women than men since 1995 (18 percent vs. eight percent respectively), Myanmar has seen decreases in female literacy over time, and despite improvements, Iraq, Uganda, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan have never met global rates.

Country-specific data on gender-based domestic violence found Afghanistan has experienced the highest increase in reports (46 percent), followed by Ethiopia (40 percent) and the DRC (37 percent). 

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UN calls for global action against spread of COVID-19 misinformation

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2020)

The United Nations and its partners have called on countries to take urgent action to address what they describe as the “infodemic” around the COVID-19 pandemic and put in place national action plans to promote science-based health information.

In a statement issued by the UN on Thursday, the organization said the pandemic is the first in history in which technology and social media are being used to both inform people and keep them connected but also to undermine global response to the crisis and jeopardize measures to contain the disease.

“WHO and partners are calling on all countries to put in place national action plans to promote science-based health information and to combat misinformation.

They also called on the media, tech companies, civil society, researchers and people everywhere to keep the infodemic from spreading”.

“Misinformation costs lives. Without the appropriate trust and correct information, diagnostic tests go unused, immunization campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not meet their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive”, the partners said in a statement. 

“We call on Member States to develop and implement action plans to manage the infodemic by promoting the timely dissemination of accurate information, based on science and evidence, to all communities, and in particular high-risk groups; and preventing the spread, and combating, mis- and disinformation while respecting freedom of expression.” 

Authorities also were urged to empower communities to develop solutions and resilience against the infodemic. 

Stakeholders such as the media and social media platforms were called on to collaborate with the UN system, and each other, “to further strengthen their actions to disseminate accurate information and prevent the spread of mis- and disinformation.” 

 

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