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Loya Jirga urges govt to release prisoners in order to kick start peace talks

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2020)

Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga, or grand council of tribal elders, community leaders, and politicians, on Saturday, urged the government to release the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners so as to move forward with intra-Afghan talks.

The Loya Jirga, called to determine the fate of the prisoners, convened Friday and wrapped up on Saturday. Over 3,200 delegates participated.

The delegates were split up into 50 working committees and discussed the prisoner release issue for two days.

Once each group had made their decision they submitted their recommendations to the Jirga’s administrative board.

All 50 committees recommended government free the 400 controversial prisoners.

Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council of National Reconciliation and the chair of the Loya Jirga, said Saturday that the committees recommended the prisoners be released but that the Jirga would officially “announce the outcome tomorrow.”

“I congratulate all Jirga members divided into 50 working committees for promptly ending their free deliberations. I welcome their input and recommendations as part of this important consultative exercise as we compile & announce the outcome tomorrow,” Abdullah said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Abdullah said that the direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban would begin three days after the end of the Jirga.

“Three days after the end of the jirga, Afghan talks will begin and we are ready to move this process forward properly to end the war in Afghanistan,” Abdullah said.

A readout of their conclusions, seen by Ariana News, indicates that these committees urged the international community, especially the United States, to guarantee the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and a comprehensive ceasefire for the release of prisoners.

In their recommendations, the committees recommended that the government and the High Council of National Reconciliation consider the following points regarding the release of the prisoners and the hoped-for intra-Afghan peace talks:

  1. To achieve lasting and dignified peace, the parties must show the necessary flexibility;
  2. Release 400 remaining Taliban prisoners so that there is no excuse to postpone peace talks;
  3. Unconditional ceasefire shall be established with the release of Taliban prisoners and the parties shall remain committed to it;
  4. Peace talks should begin as soon as possible;
  5. The formation of an all-inclusive national body for peace negotiations capable of defending the values and achievements of the last 19 years;
  6. Afghan-led peace talks should preferably be held in Afghanistan;
  7. The countries involved in the Afghan issue should stop supporting the Taliban and not escalate tensions;
  8. The Taliban should no longer carry out terrorist attacks under the name of ISIS (Daesh);
  9. Prisoners should be released on national and international bail so that they do not rejoin the battlefield;
  10. Guarantee from the international community from the start and success of the talks and the establishment of lasting peace in Afghanistan;
  11. Release prisoners of the country’s security forces in order to prevent the weakening of their national spirit;
  12. Decisively defend the republic and the achievements of the last 19 years in the peace negotiations;
  13. Defend the constitution, especially the second chapter of the constitution and the democratic system in negotiations;
  14. Protect civil liberties and rights enshrined in the Constitution, especially the rights and freedoms of women;
  15. Preserve freedom of speech and freedom of the press;
  16. Share the progress of peace talks with the people of Afghanistan during the talks;
  17. The government must obtain the consent of the families of war victims;
  18. Involve all different sections of society, especially women and youth in the peace negotiating team;
  19. The negotiating team must have the full capacity for dialogue;
  20. Peace agreements under the supervision and guarantee of the United Nations, major world and regional powers;

“All the members of the relevant committees emphasized that the people of Afghanistan have been making sacrifices for years. War has taken a heavy toll on us. To achieve peace and stability and to end the devastating phenomenon of war, we agree to release Taliban prisoners, provided that the international community guarantees the success of the talks and the establishment of lasting peace,” the chairmen of the committees said.

The chairmen added: “Agreeing to release Taliban prisoners does not mean forgiving their crimes. No individual or institution has the right to do so. But achieving peace and stability in the country is a national priority and a public necessity.

“Therefore, to facilitate the success of the peace talks, it is necessary to pave the way for the start of negotiations.”

After submitting the report of the working committees, Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and Chairman of the Grand Consultative Peace Jirga, meanwhile expressed his gratitude for the patience, comprehensive advice and constructive and comprehensive suggestions made by the members of the Jirga and said: “The High Council for National Reconciliation is very important and we will make great use of it in the negotiations.”

The Speaker of the Grand Consultative Peace Jirga expressed satisfaction with the successful completion of the working committees and said: “Afghanistan is at a critical and historic stage. It is a great success to understand the sensitivity of the situation and to give your advice in the light of the current situation and with the national interest in mind. However, the conditions are not favorable. But what definitely guarantees our victory is our unity.”

Meanwhile, some committees objected to the composition of the current negotiating team, urging the government to reconsider its make up and select new members for the team.

But sources close to the Taliban say that after the release of 400 prisoners, early talks are not possible and the demands of the parties involved have not been finalized.

Sayed Akbar Agha, a former member of the Taliban, said: “The Taliban are waiting for the release of 400 prisoners and the Taliban are ready for Afghan talks, but it is possible that other figures will join the government’s negotiating team and this will not be possible in a short time.”

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

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Reuters
(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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