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Long Impasse over House Speaker Angers Lawmakers

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(Last Updated On: June 1, 2019)

A number of lawmakers on Saturday emphasized that a fundamental solution must be sought to end the ongoing impasse in the Lower House of Parliament.

Expressing their dissatisfaction, the lawmakers insist that the people’s hopes must not be turned into disappointment.

“The people are expecting us to serve them. We want an immediate solution to the problem so we can start our main responsibilities which are monitoring the government and approving the laws,” said Khudadad Urfani, a lawmaker from Ghazni province.

However, some lawmakers emphasize that the issue over the parliament speaker is resolved and no one should ignite the tensions anymore.

“According to the parliament’s internal affairs procedure, 244 votes were casted and 123 votes secured by Mr. Rahmani is the majority,” said Abdul Aziz Hakimi, an MP from Parwan province.

Meanwhile, Mirwais Yasini, a lawmaker from eastern Nangarhar province said that legal solutions are available to end the impasse.

Yasini hoped that a newly formed committee of ten members may solve the problem after Eid days.

About two weeks ago, lawmakers in the Afghan parliament divided after the interim speaker of the House announced Mir Rahman Rahmani, an MP from Parwan province, as the new speaker of the House and his rival rejected to accept his defeat.

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Ghani to sign prisoner release decree, peace talks expected in days

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

Long-awaited intra-Afghan negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are expected to start in Doha, Qatar within a week once the final 400 Taliban prisoners have been released. 

“We are ready to sit for talks within a week from when we see our prisoners released. We are ready,” Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told Reuters on Monday.

A government source told Reuters that President Ashraf Ghani would likely sign the decree to release the prisoners later on Monday.

“Everyone is waiting for Ghani to sign on the decree. The original plan is to travel to Doha on Wednesday and the talks will begin on Sunday,” the source said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC Pashto on Sunday, Shaheen said the Taliban negotiating team will be led by Abbas Stanikzai, the former chief negotiator for the Taliban during talks with the United States. 

Asked about a ceasefire, called for by the Loya Jirga on Sunday, Shaheen said: “The ceasefire is part of the intra-Afghan negotiations agenda that will be discussed there. It has been mentioned in the Doha agreement.”

Shaheen said the group wanted peace but criticized the delay in the prisoner release process by the Afghan government. 

He also stated that the group will continue to adhere to its commitments made during the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha earlier this year. 

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who cemented the agreement with the Taliban in February for the prisoner release campaign along with the withdrawal of US troops, on Monday also welcomed the Loya Jirga’s decision to release the remaining 400 prisoners. 

He also said that intra-Afghan talks would commence soon. 

In a series of posts on Twitter, Khalilzad said: “In the next few days, we expect the completion of prisoner releases, then travel of the Islamic Republic team to Doha, & from there the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations.”

“The parties will embark on a process to reach an agreement on a political roadmap & a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to end the Afghan war,” he tweeted.

The release of the 400 hardcore prisoners had been a stumbling block in the way of peace talks in the past month. President Ashraf Ghani has so far released over 4,600 Taliban prisoners in accordance with the Doha agreement but was wary of releasing the remaining group. 

However, this weekend’s Loya Jirga unanimously voted in favor of releasing the prisoners so that peace talks could start between the two parties. 

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Morrison urges Trump to stop release of prisoner who killed Australian soldiers

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged US President Donald Trump to ensure an Afghan soldier who carried out an insider attack and killed three  Australian soldiers was not part of the group of 400 hard core Taliban prisoners expected to be released within days. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, officials from the Department of Defence contacted the families of the three Australian soldiers on Friday, warning the soldier, Hekmatullah, would likely be one of the prisoners released as part of peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Hekmatullah has spent seven years in prison after killing Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate in August 2012 while they were playing cards, the Herald reported.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds raised the matter with their US counterparts in Washington during talks late last month, and Morrison has written to Trump asking that Hekmatullah not be released, the Herald stated. 

“This has been a matter of very regular and persistent petitioning on our behalf,” Morrison said in Canberra on Monday.

“It is a matter of keen interest to Australia, and we’ve reminded them of that. Hekmatullah was responsible for murdering three Australians, and our position is that he should never be released. We do not believe that his release adds to peace in this region.”

“And that is the position that we will continue to maintain and we’ll maintain it strongly. I can’t promise you the outcome we all want here, but it’s certainly the outcome that we will continue to press for as hard as we can,” he said. 

This comes after Sunday’s decision by the Loya Jirga, or grand council, in Kabul, that the remaining 400 controversial prisoners be released in accordance with the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban in February this year. 

Following Sunday’s resolution, President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree ordering the release of the prisoners so that intra-Afghan talks can start as soon as possible. 

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It is ‘Peace Monday’, says US envoy to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

Ross Wilson, the Charge d’Affaires at the US embassy in Kabul, has thanked everyone who participated in the peace talks program over the past five months and said “It’s Peace Monday”.

He said everyone who had so far participated in the process had provided valuable insight into what peace means to Afghans and what is important for the future of the country. 

In his message, Wilson explained what he tells the members of the intra-Afghan negotiating team about the peace process and its outcomes. 

“I tell them the United States supports two important outcomes for these talks. 

“First, a sovereign, united, democratic Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbors.

“Second, preservation and advancement of the political, economic and social gains of the past 19 years. 

He said in line with this, the US embassy will share details with the Afghan people about the remarkable progress Afghanistan has achieved since 2001.

He also said he would highlight ways the United States contributes towards its Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan and reveal some of the ambitious goals for the future. 

However, he made it clear that the intra-Afghan negotiations should and will be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led. 

In a clear message to Afghans, he said: “It’s up to all of you to determine the future of this country.”

But in doing this, he reassured all Afghans that the United States will be there, “every step of the way” to support Afghanistan. 

Wilson’s message comes at a critical time in the Afghan peace process following the Loya Jirga’s decision Sunday to release the 400 controversial Taliban prisoners in order to kick start much-needed peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

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