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Kashmir Avalanches Kill Dozens, Destroy Villages

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2020)

At least 69 people died after avalanches hit the Pakistani and Indian administered Kashmir during the last 24 hours, Reuters reported.

According to the report, at least 59 people were killed and many more were missing after avalanches in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir over the last 24 hours, senior government officials said, Tuesday.

In the Indian administered Kashmir too, at least 10 people were killed after several avalanches hit the northern part of Kashmir.

Two Pakistani officials said many villagers were still stranded by the avalanches in the Neelum Valley following heavy rain and landslides. Many people were reported missing and feared dead as rescue efforts got underway, an official told Reuters.

Rescuers had managed to extract more than 50 people from the snow and airlifted them out of the area for treatment. Authorities also scrambled to provide relief to local people with another spell of heavy snow expected on Friday.

At least 53 houses have been completely destroyed by avalanches in the Pakistani administered region known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir abbreviated as AJK, officials said.

“I have asked the National Disaster Management Authority, the military, and all our federal ministers to immediately provide all humanitarian assistance on an emergency footing to the affected people in AJK,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted.

A senior Indian police official said five soldiers were among the 10 killed near the border between India and Pakistan.

The area is one of the world’s most militarily tense frontiers, where the neighboring armies have confronted each other over disputed territory for decades. Kashmir has been divided between Indian and Pakistan since their independence in 1947.

In 2012, an avalanche engulfed a Pakistani army battalion headquarters near the Indian border, killing at least 124 soldiers and 11 civilians.

Meanwhile in western Pakistan, heavy snowfall in southwestern Balochistan destroyed several houses in the mountainous region, killing 17 people.

The disaster management authority declared an emergency in seven districts of the mineral-rich province and sought the army’s help for relief and rescue operations.

Key highways connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan were blocked due to heavy snow, forcing officials to suspend transportation of essential goods into Afghanistan.

In addition, severe cold and heavy snow led to the death of 39 people in six provinces of Afghanistan in the past two weeks said Tamim Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Natural Disaster Management Authority in Kabul.

“We are distributing emergency assistance, including cash to the affected families,” said Azimi, adding that heavy rain and snow have hampered the rescuers.

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Taliban strongholds in Pakistan give group platform to wage war: NDS

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(Last Updated On: November 23, 2020)

Ahmad Zia Saraj, the acting head of the national directorate of security (NDS), said Monday that because the Taliban has active and secure strongholds in Pakistani cities, the group has been able to intensify the conflict in Afghanistan.

Saraj said this was enabling the Taliban to continue a proxy war.

Saraj stressed that the region’s intelligence policy towards Afghanistan has not changed and that regional countries are trying to achieve a system that the Taliban want.

“Taliban safe havens in Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar are safely plotting every day to challenge us, and in their plans our people are killed, and if the Taliban leadership did not have safe places in these cities they [Taliban] would be facing a bad fate,” Saraj said.

Meanwhile, the acting NDS chief stressed that the Taliban had not cut contact with al-Qaeda and that many terrorist groups were colluding with the group to pursue one goal – which is to destabilize Afghanistan and kill people.

“The Taliban’s relationship with foreign terrorists continues on a regular basis, and terrorist groups are using each other’s capabilities, which has led to an increase in the conflict, and these groups are buying and selling suicide bombers, and all groups are pursuing the same goal, killing people, destroying values and establishing a system,” Saraj added.

Saraj also said that the Taliban does not believe in the peace process.

“If the Taliban was committed to peace, we should have seen results from the talks, and it can be seen that they are not interested in peace and they only want a regime according to their wishes, and if they were committed, they would not increase the violence,” Saraj said.

However, the NDS emphasizes that the only way to reduce the level of violence in Afghanistan is to create and cooperate on a “real” regional consensus basis.

He said conflict of interest among regional countries has resulted in a more widespread war in Afghanistan.

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Shocking data finds 5 Afghan children killed or maimed every day

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(Last Updated On: November 23, 2020)

A new study has found at least 26,025 children have been killed or maimed in war-ravaged Afghanistan in the past 14 years – an average of five children every day.

The shocking findings, released by Save the Children, has spurred the organization on to join calls for increased humanitarian funding from donor countries at this week’s pledging conference in Geneva.

According to a statement issued by Save the Children, the study took into account child victims due to conflict between 2005 and 2019. The organization also stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the crisis for children.

The UN estimates that currently, seven million children are in need of urgent help in Afghanistan.

Save the Children reported that between between 2017 and 2019 there were more than 300 attacks on schools, injuring or killing at least 410 students and teachers.

The organization stated that 93 percent of late primary school-aged children are not proficient in reading and 60 percent of school-aged children missing out on their education are girls,

The organization also stated that spending on education is presently 78 percent less than the average for the South Asia region and that 14 million people, nearly 50 percent of the country’s population, need humanitarian assistance.

In addition, more than seven million children are at risk of hunger just this year, three million children under the age of five suffer from under-nutrition and the UN’s humanitarian appeal is currently only 42 percent funded.

Chris Nyamandi, Save the Children’s Country Director in Afghanistan, said: “Imagine living with the constant fear that today might be the day that your child is killed in a suicide attack or an airstrike. This is the grim reality for tens of thousands of Afghan parents whose children have been killed or injured.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added to children’s misery and must be addressed with new funding. But as the humanitarian needs rise higher than ever, it is a struggle to secure the funds needed to help people.

“This week’s conference is a crucial moment for donor governments to reaffirm their support to Afghanistan and its millions of children, at a time when it is needed more than ever,” said Mr Nyamandi.

As the 2020 Afghanistan Conference starts in Geneva, Save the Children called on the international community to increase funding for education, especially for girls, as well as protect the interests of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups; increase spending on public health to support children, many of whom are having to live with life-altering injuries due to being caught up in the conflict; work with the government of Afghanistan to ensure national laws related to the protection of children are fully resourced and rolled out nationwide; secure an enduring peace settlement so that future generations grow up free from the fear of violence and death.

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Taliban ignoring calls for reduction in violence: US envoy

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(Last Updated On: November 23, 2020)

Despite concerted efforts on the part of the United States to get the Taliban to reduce its levels of violence in the country, the group has failed to listen to calls from the US and in fact dislike being criticized.

Speaking virtually to the media on Monday, the US Chargé d’Affaires to Afghanistan Ross Wilson said the United States has not been able to convince the Taliban to scale down on violent attacks.

There has been a marked increase in violence by the Taliban since the signing of the US-Taliban deal in February in Doha.

In line with this, Wilson said: “We are deeply concerned about the Taliban’s [increase in] violence since February 29, it is not consistent with the terms that we believe we agreed upon with the Taliban.

“We have told the Taliban this very clearly and directly many times, they don’t like the criticism from us, they don’t like the implied criticism from the United Nations, from the EU from other international communities.

“I regret deeply that we have not yet had more success in and seeing or generally having resulting decrease in the level of violence of the very significant reduction that we believe was part of the deal in February and that has not materialized; certainly not that we have expected or that we would like to expect,” said Wilson.

Wilson added that he has also spoken to a number of media outlets to address challenges and threats against journalists and added that efforts are underway to find solutions.

“We strongly support free and independent media in this country; last week with media figures [we] talked about specific problem of assassinations, threats against journalists and how we in this country and other international firms can help to address that problem,” Wilson added.

Experts believe that the Taliban continue to use violence to gain points in peace talks.

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