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Loya Jirga on fate of Taliban prisoners to convene Friday in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

The Afghan government will convene a Consultative Loya Jirga on Friday in Kabul to decide the fate of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners who are on the group’s list.

For this Jirga, the Presidential Palace is yet to release details but officials have said the expected participants would be the same as those who participated in the last Peace Jirga along with members of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

“Loya Jirga will be held on August 7th. It is in continuation of the Consultative Jirga for Peace. Members are the same from the previous Jirga which will be divided into different categories such as civil society, media, and people’s council … the commission that is tasked for convening the Jirga will provide further details by tomorrow,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Presidential Palace.

A Loya Jirga is a mass national gathering that brings together representatives from the various ethnic, religious, and tribal communities in Afghanistan.

The Jirga, or “grand council” is a centuries-old tradition that is convened at times of a national crisis or to settle a national issue.

Historically, it has been used to approve a new constitution, declare war, choose a new king, or to make sweeping social or political reforms.

A question that’s been raised however is why did the government not convene a Loya Jirga on the release of the other 4,600 Taliban prisoners – who have already been freed.

Some lawyers believe however that this latest move, to hold a Loya Jirga, is purely symbolic and holds no legal authority.

Nasrullah Stanikzai, a law expert, said: “No one is authorized to forgive the Taliban prisoner. The Loya Jirga doesn’t have legal status. Its decisions don’t have a legal base. How can they resolve a legal issue? Political pressure has made the government release 4,500 Taliban prisoners. This Jirga, which is scheduled on Friday, is a symbolic and political move.”

In addition to this, the government has called for the Jirga – which will bring together scores of people – amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In April last year, a peace Jirga brought together more than 3,200 delegates.

The Ministry of Public Health does not, however, see this as an issue and feels participants should simply adhere to precautionary measures and health guidelines.

“Undoubtedly, we will consider all precautionary measures, and based on the health directives, it will not be a problem to hold a Loya Jirga,” said Mohammad Jawad Osmani, the Acting Health Minister.

Meanwhile, the Second Vice President, Sarwar Danesh, has told the US Deputy Ambassador to Kabul that holding the Jirga on the fate of the 400 controversial Taliban prisoners is a positive move toward intra-Afghan talks.

So far, the release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, as per the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban, has been a stumbling block in the way of talks.

However, over 4,500 prisoners have already been released but 400 are still behind bars.

Some Afghan government officials and Western allies have in the past few weeks raised concerns over at least 200 of these prisoners. Many of them are said to have been the masterminds behind serious attacks over the past few years.

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

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(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

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(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

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(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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