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Pakistan Taliban demand prisoner release as condition for talks

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(Last Updated On: November 7, 2021)

The Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan or TTP have demanded that the government of Pakistan release a number of prisoners as a condition for talks aimed at laying the ground for full ceasefire negotiations, multiple sources in the group said, Reuters reported.

The TTP and separate from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) , have had two rounds of preliminary talks, facilitated by the IEA, a commander based in the Afghan province of Kunar said.

Reuters citing sources close to the matter said Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network and the current Afghan IEA acting interior minister, was helping the talks.

The TTP, which combines a number of jihadi and militant groups that have been fighting the government of Pakistan since 2007, is included on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organisations.

Last month Prime Minister Imran Khan told Turkey’s TRT television that his government was in talks with parts of the TTP as part of a “reconciliation process”.

The release of the prisoners is meant to be a confidence-building measure, three TTP commanders said, adding that the outcome of the talks was still uncertain.

“We aren’t too hopeful of the immediate results of the talks but our leaders had demanded the release of prisoners if they are sincere in meaningful negotiations,” a TTP commander told Reuters from Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

No comment was available from the Pakistani government, Reuters reported.

According to negotiators, the two sides agreed not to issue statements either supporting or opposing the peace process or against each other till the accord is signed and made public.

TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani said in a text message the group had “never refused meaningful talks” but that there were no developments on the ground yet.

According to Reuters, the TTP attacks have killed and wounded thousands of civilians and Pakistani service personnel over the years but the group was badly weakened by the Pakistan military’s Zarb-e-Azb operation in 2014 which drove it from its stronghold in North Waziristan.

However it has a force estimated at around 4,000-5,000 fighters, many based across the border in Afghanistan, and there has been a spate of incidents along the border since the IEA seized Kabul in August.

Under the previous Western-backed government in Kabul, both Afghanistan and Pakistan accused each other of harbouring militant groups that mounted cross-border attacks.

Another TTP commander said the leadership had consulted all factions in the movement, some of which had serious reservations about talking to the Pakistani government, but he said many ordinary fighters wanted to go home.

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Parwan residents receive much needed food from Bayat Foundation

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2022)

Hundreds of vulnerable families in Parwan province received much-needed food aid from Afghan charity the Bayat Foundation this week.

The leading charity organization distributed foods parcels – that included flour, cooking oil, and rice – to at-risk families in the province.

Bayat Foundation, so far, has distributed food supplies to thousands of vulnerable people in Logar, Maidan Wardak, Paktika, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Baghlan, Jawzjan, Paktia, Khost, Kunduz, Kandahar, Kunar, Urozgan, Kabul, and Bamiyan provinces.

Haji Mohammad Ismail, Deputy Head of Bayat Foundation, stated: “Today we brought food supplies to Charikar city in Parwan province to distribute to deserving and displaced people.”

“The aid included flour, rice, and oil. We will distribute aid to other provinces soon,” Haji Mohammad Ismail added.

Grateful recipients of the food aid thanked the Bayat Foundation and said they needed the food desperately.

“We are grateful for the much-needed aid [by Bayat Foundation] and call for the continuation of this assistance,” said a resident of Parwan.

Another recipient of the Foundation’s assistance said: “Food prices are high and we face unemployment; therefore, people are suffering financial hardship. This aid will help people.”

Bayat Foundation provides at-risk families with food supplies ahead of and through winter every year. This year, the foundation has ramped up efforts to reach as many desperate families in the country as possible amid the ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis.

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AIB takes delivery of 6th cash aid package from UN

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2022)

The sixth transfer of humanitarian aid in US dollars from the United Nations has arrived in Afghanistan, Da Afghanistan Bank said on Monday.

The aid, totaling $32 million, was immediately handed over to the Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) on Sunday.

Da Afghanistan Bank, the central bank, has thanked the UN for its assistance in helping to overcome the current economic crisis in the country.

Last month the United Nations announced it would provide $20 million a week in cash as humanitarian aid to Afghanistan by the end of March this year to save the banking system from running out of cash.

The Central Bank of Afghanistan announced four days ago that it had also received the fifth package of $32 million in cash from the United Nations.

After the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the United States froze nearly $10 billion in foreign reserves belonging to Afghanistan.

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IEA wraps up first day of talks with Norwegian authorities

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Monday members of their delegation, led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, to Norway met with Norwegian officials on Sunday and discussed issues related to the current situation in the country.

According to a statement issued by the (IEA), “a one-day joint meeting was held between officials of the acting Afghan government and a number of personalities in Oslo, the capital of the Kingdom of Norway”.

“During the meeting, the participants listened patiently to each others’ opinions and exchanged views on the current situation in the country.

“They affirmed that Afghanistan is the shared home of all Afghans, and stressed that all Afghans need to work together for the political, economic and security prosperity of the country.

 “The participants of the meeting recognized that understanding and joint cooperation are the only solutions to all the problems of Afghanistan,” read the statement.

The IEA also said all participants declared such meetings to be in the interest of the country.

Speaking at the end of the first day of talks, IEA delegate Shafiullah Azam told The Associated Press that the meetings with Western officials were “a step to legitimize (the) Afghan government,” adding that “this type of invitation and communication will help (the) European community, (the) U.S. or many other countries to erase the wrong picture of the Afghan government.”

Norway’s Foreign Ministry meanwhile said in a statement last week that Afghan representatives have been invited to Oslo from  23-25 January to meet Norwegian authorities, the international community, and other Afghans.

The statement noted that the meetings do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the IEA “but the de facto authorities must be talked with so that we prevent political situation leading to a worse humanitarian disaster”.

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