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Khalilzad’s meetings continue, this time with peace advocates

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(Last Updated On: March 16, 2021)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with Afghan peace advocates on Tuesday to hear their views on the importance of men and youth working together with women to protect the gains of the last two decades.

They also discussed strategies to accelerate peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad also met with Afghan civil society leaders to hear their views on how to protect girls’ and women’s rights in any future political agreement leading to peace in Afghanistan where he noted that women leaders are vital to peace and reconciliation in the country.

Khalilzad also met with media executives about recent assassinations and the impact on media reporting and press freedom.

On this issue, Khalilzad called for the expeditious investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators for all these targeted killings.

During the meeting with Afghan media leaders Khalilzad condemned the ongoing violence and threats and called for increased protection for journalists and media workers throughout Afghanistan.

Khalilzad’s meetings coincided with the release of a statement Tuesday by Amnesty International (AI) on the Afghan government’s failure to deliver on their pledge to establish a functional body dedicated to protecting human rights defenders in Afghanistan.

In the statement, the global rights watchdog said more than three months ago a Presidential Decree was issued on the establishment of a Joint Commission for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

However “no practical steps have been taken to make it an effective protection mechanism, with a lack of information forthcoming on any plan or strategy to address the escalating threat faced by members of Afghan civil society”, the statement read.

Citing UNAMA figures, AI pointed out that an already “dire situation for Afghanistan’s human rights community has significantly worsened over recent months”, with no fewer than 11 human rights defenders and media workers killed in targeted attacks between the start of peace negotiations on 12 September 2020 and 31 January 2021.

The delay in having established a functioning mechanism “has already cost lives and there is no sign of the violence abating,” their statement read.

Meanwhile, Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, said: “The announcement of the Joint Commission was a vital step towards providing human rights defenders across the country with the support and security they so desperately need.

“But it’s a body that currently exists in name only. In more than three months, during which we have witnessed a frenzied escalation of killings, attacks and threats against activists, the Commission has made no tangible progress or taken any meaningful action,” said Mishra.

“This delay has already cost lives and there is no sign of the violence abating. The Joint Commission must urgently expedite its work and prioritize the immediate security needs of human rights defenders, investigate all cases of threats, attacks and other forms of intimidation, and hold those responsible to account.”

Amnesty International also called on the Joint Commission to ensure that, where necessary, human rights defenders are provided with adequate protection measures including relocation, relief and psychosocial support.

According to UNAMA figures, 14 human rights defenders were killed in Afghanistan in 2020. This includes Mohammad Yousuf Rasheed, CEO of Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, who was shot dead on 23 December 2020 in morning rush-hour traffic in Kabul along with his driver, days after the Joint Commission was established.

According to its mandate, the Joint Commission has been established ‘for the purpose of strengthening human rights advocacy and addressing the national and international concerns of human rights-related issues in Afghanistan’.

“To achieve its goals and become worthy of its name, the Joint Commission must be provided with the necessary human and financial resources, and be fully supported by both the Afghan government and the international community,” said Mishra.

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World leaders call for peace, stability in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

On day 2 of the UN General Assembly, world leaders called for peace and stability in Afghanistan and voiced their concerns about attacks being launched from Afghanistan.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in his address to the general assembly that the international community needs to work with Afghanistan’s neighbors in order to prevent instability in the region.

“Regarding Afghanistan, we’ll have to start working with neighbouring countries in this new context to face the humanitarian crisis and prevent more instability in the region.

“We cannot lower our guard in the face of a terrorist menace (Daesh) that is real and that already has delivered a heavy blow in the midst of the evacuation operations.

“Afghanistan cannot turn into a shelter for terrorists. Spain is firmly committed to find maximum international security,” said Sanchez.

Leaders attending the 76th General Assembly, also called for achievements made over the past 20 years to be preserved.

“As the UN Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child, it makes me sad that the progress seen during the past two decades in Afghanistan could be reverted so quickly,” said Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia.

Indonesia, which has the highest Muslim population of any country in the world, called on the international community to support the call for rights for women and minorities and for stability in Afghanistan.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of diversification of vaccine production centers across the world.

“We must be stern in fighting intolerance, conflicts, terrorism and war. Peace in diversity and the protection of women’s and minority rights must be upheld. Concerns on the marginalization of women and violence in Afghanistan, Palestine’s elusive independence and the political crisis in Myanmar must be our common agenda,” said Joko Widodo, president of Indonesia.

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Acting foreign minister upbeat about future trade and diplomatic relations

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi says he is working to build strong economic ties with regional nations and countries around the world.

Speaking at a ceremony to introduce the new acting minister of commerce and industry, Nooruddin Aziz, Muttaqi said he is focused on developing the country’s economic sector.

Muttaqi also said that Afghanistan’s economic relations with regional countries would soon be regulated, which would have a positive impact on trade.

“We have selected a minister from the private sector for the ministry of commerce and industry so as to ensure the smooth running of the private sector and economic activities. We hope that the private sector will also play an active role in the country’s economy,” Muttaqi said at the ceremony.

Aziz meanwhile said he will also work to expand economic ties with all countries, both regionally and globally, in order to get Afghanistan to a point where it is financially self-sufficient.

“We strive to make Afghanistan a self-sufficient and economic-free country and to maintain relations with regional and neighboring countries; also the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and a number of other countries,” said Aziz.

Private sector representatives said they will support the new ministers and work with them to grow the country’s economy.

“Security is crucial for economic development and the fight against corruption. So far the (security) problem has been solved. We will expand our activities,” said Khan Jan Alkozai, Vice President of Afghan Chamber of Commerce & Industries.

“Unless we speed up our efforts to develop industry and domestic production in the country, economic growth may not be possible. We call on the Islamic Emirate to make efforts to develop domestic production,” said Sherbaz Kaminzada, head of the chamber of mines and industries.

Officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have assured members of the private sector that the security of domestic investors will be maintained and that more opportunities for economic development will be provided.

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Afghanistan faces severe medicine shortage amid Forex restrictions

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

Afghanistan is now faced with medicine shortage due to disrupted border crossings and limited operation of banks.

Almost all medicine in Afghanistan is imported from neighboring countries, such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

However, the border crossings between Afghanistan and its neighbors were disrupted in the lead-up to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover, and normal operations are yet to resume.

Worse still, wholesalers have been unable to complete transactions due to the limited operation of banks.

“Yes, since the takeover, banks are closed [for international transactions]. As the banks are closed, we can’t transfer payments to suppliers. If we don’t transfer money to the suppliers legally, they will not be able to deliver us the medicine and prices will definitely rise. When demand is high, and supply is low, the prices naturally go up. We are facing a shortage in supply of essential medicine,” said Rohullah Alokozay, President of GPS Pharma, Reuters reported.

Officials said the number of visitors at government hospitals has increased since the change of regime. The good news is that international donors have increased their focus towards government hospitals.

“In fact, we have even more visiting patients. Fortunately, we got more attention from UNICEF and the WHO, especially, towards our hospital which is a children’s hospital. They didn’t have enough focus in the last few years, but in the last month they increased our medical supply,” said Noor ul Haq Yousufzai, president of Indira Gandhi Institute for Children’s Health.

In fact, the government hospitals didn’t have enough medical facilities in the past three to four years due to lengthy procurement processes and the problem of corruption.

Government hospitals were not able to provide medicines to patients despite the continued funding in the previous regime.

“On one hand, prices have increased, while on the other hand, the people have become poorer. This has affected the doctors, patients and the society. Even in the former regime, patients used to buy their medicine at the market. We used to prescribe the medicine. Patients were not provided even with a single pill from the hospital,” said Dr. M. Fayaz Safi, Head of Medical Doctors’ Association in Afghanistan.

Many of the problems in the health sector have been left over from the previous regime. Wahid Majrooh, former acting minister of public health in the previous government said the former Afghan authorities had tried to solve the issues in coordination with stakeholders, but efforts were unsuccessful.

“And it led us to having few or no supplies, and most of our health facilities including essential medicine, fuel, oxygen, staff salary. We have been trying to work with different stakeholders to see if we can fulfil the urgent needs, but we haven’t been able to do it successfully,” said Majrooh.

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