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MoU on protection, restoration of Herat minarets signed in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2021)

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on restoration and protection of Musalla Minaret of Herat on Thursday signed between the acting minister of information and culture and a representative of Aga Khan Foundation in Kabul.

Dr. Fazel Fazly, head of the Administrative Office of the President (AOP) also spoke and expressed happiness regarding signing of the MoU.

“Technical assistance of the Aga Khan Development Network to Afghanistan government in the field of protection and restoration of the country’s historic monuments from perspective of quality is valuable and tangible as the Network considers all international standards in protection and restoration of cultural and historic monuments,” said Dr. Fazly.

Meanwhile, Sheherazade Hirji, a representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) said that AKDN has restored hisprotic places in Herat, including Qala-e-Ikhtiaruddin ‘Herat Palace’, Khwaja Abdullah Ansari Mausoleum.

 “Aga Khan Development Network has restored 140 – 150 historic sites in Afghanistan so far and is currently playing its part in restoration of the fifth Musalla Minarets of Herat, which shows the Network’s strong commitment towards protection Afghanistan’s cultural heritages,” said Hirji.

Tahir Zuhair, acting minister of information and culture, said that 162 historic sites have been restored in the past six years.

He said effort underway to prevent trafficking of the country’s historic artefacts.

“Based on instruction of President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the survey and restoration work on all Bala-e-Hesars and historic sites of the country will be started,” said Zuhair.

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Taliban frees 53 security force members held captive in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: March 6, 2021)

The Taliban has released 53 members of the Afghan Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) that were being held captive by the group in southern Kandahar province.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban confirmed the move in a tweet late Friday night.

A list of released hostages seen by Ariana News shows that this group of captives had been captured in Arghandab, Spin Boldak, Maroof, Arghistan, Panjwai, Shah Walikot, and Maiwand districts in recent months.

Heavy fighting has been ongoing in these districts in Kandahar since late last year and has displaced thousands of families.

The government has not yet however commented on the release of the security force members.

This comes just days after Afghan security forces freed over 30 prisoners from Taliban captivity in Herat province.

“Eleven army soldiers, seven policemen, three Afghan Air Force personnel, seven civilian workers of development projects, seven government employees, and a member of the public uprising force are released from prison,” the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

The MoD also shared pictures of the prisoners who were said to have been held in an improvised Taliban prison in the Adraskan district of Herat.

The release of prisoners, held by both parties to the conflict, has become a contentious issue in the past two months.

According to the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February last year, both the Afghan government and the Taliban had to free prisoners.

The Afghan government released the last batch of 5,500 Taliban prisoners six months ago in accordance with the agreement.

The Taliban at the time also released over 1,000 prisoners.

However, in ongoing peace talks in Doha, the Taliban has repeatedly called for a further 7,000 Taliban prisoners to be freed but government has refused to do so.

In an interview last month, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the Taliban had breached their commitments under the deal, pointing to an increase in violence and to intelligence showing they had not severed their ties to al-Qaeda.

He also said that Taliban prisoners freed by the Afghan government as part of the US-brokered deal had in fact resumed fighting instead of going back to their homes.

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Indian farmers block highway outside Delhi to mark 100th day of protest

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(Last Updated On: March 6, 2021)

Indian farmers began gathering on Saturday to block a six-lane highway outside New Delhi to mark the 100th day of protests against deregulation of agriculture markets.

According to Reuters, farmers headed in cars, trucks and tractors to the highway for a five-hour roadblock to oppose three farm laws enacted in September 2020 that they say hurt them by opening up the agriculture sector to private players.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s has called the laws much-needed reforms for the country’s vast and antiquated agriculture sector, and painted the protests as politically motivated, Reuters reported.

“The Modi government has turned this protest movement into an ego issue. They are unable to see the pain of the farmers,” said Amarjeet Singh, a 68-year-old farmer from Punjab state.

“They have left us no option but to protest.”

Tens of thousands of farmers from several north Indian states have been camped out on the outskirts of the capital in bitter cold since December demanding that the laws be repealed.

According to Reuters, their movement has gained international attention and support, including from celebrities such as climate activist Greta Thunberg and U.S. singer Rihanna, but several rounds of negotiations between farmer leaders and the government have failed.

Modi’s government has lashed out at supporters of the protests and stands accused by rights activists of using heavy-handed tactics to curb the protests.

Reuters reported that while the protests have been mostly peaceful, a brief spate of violence on Jan. 26 led to the death of a protestor, and the police have filed criminal charges against eight journalists over alleged misreporting on the events of the day.

“The Indian authorities’ response to protests has focused on discrediting peaceful protesters, harassing critics of the government, and prosecuting those reporting on the events,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement last month.

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UAE reports spike in COVID cases amid major testing drive

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(Last Updated On: March 6, 2021)

The UAE reported 2,959 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, with a further 14 deaths.

According to The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, the UAE government, in its daily coronavirus update, said 242,159 people had been tested in one day – marking one of the biggest days for screening to date.

Weekend figures for testing are typically high, as people prepare to travel or get a weekly or fortnightly test as mandated by their employer, The National reported.

Since the start of the pandemic, the UAE has recorded a total of 1,310 death; 408,236 Covid-19 cases and 391,205 recoveries.

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