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Peace team leader calls for Islamic Republic system to be upheld

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2020)

In their first formal session on Tuesday evening, the Afghan peace negotiating team leader, Masoom Stanekzai emphasized the importance of the current democratic system in the country, but still keeping it within the framework of an Islamic Republic. 

In his speech to all negotiating team members, from both the Afghan delegation and the Taliban team, he said the war in Afghanistan has been imposed on the people, who for decades have had to sacrifice their lives. 

He stated that today’s Afghanistan, from a social, economic, humanitarian and human rights point of view, is witnessing fundamental changes and has a system with broad foundations and strong infrastructure in which the rights and freedoms of all citizens of the country are protected based on Islamic beliefs and values. 

He made it clear that the governing system of Afghanistan was recognized by all countries around the world, unlike during the Taliban’s regime. He said during Taliban rule, “this country was in complete isolation of the international community.”

Stanekzai also stated that enormous strides had been made in the field of education – specifically in Islamic education. 

“In addition to the construction and renovation of hundreds of mosques and the strengthening of Islamic teachings in educational institutions in the country, more than one thousand religious centers, including madrassas, and Darul Uloom (Islamic University) have been established.

He said: “The system of republic and the existing constitution of the country is the connecting point of our nation.” 

He also said the current constitutional law, passed by the highest and most important decision-making body, the Loya Jirga, has no precedent in the history of the country. 

“This law is one of the most authoritative laws in terms of Islamic values, both at the regional level and in comparison with the eight constitutional laws that make Islam the religion of the state,” he said. 

Stanekzai said peace does not have to lead to the destruction of existing structures, but it should instead revive, reform and strengthen structures within the framework of the Islamic system, which has regional and global credibility.

Noting the high death toll that years of conflict has inflicted on the country, he said “who killed more or less is not debatable at all. The important question is why and for what crime are Afghans being killed?”

He asked all negotiators to look at all the grievances and problems in the country and come to an understanding that will end the war and work for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. 

He said the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is committed to achieving lasting peace and has proved it in its actions. 

“As you know, one of the key secrets to the success of negotiations is a strong commitment to peace and both sides must have a common understanding to achieve peace. If this principle does not exist, then no matter how hard we try, peace will not be possible,” he said.

“It is natural for each side in the negotiations to insist on its own principles, values ​​and aspirations and try to get the most out of its demands on the other side. But we must also keep in mind that our demands, based on past experiences, are only for the sake of Allah and the country, not for personal gain.”

Reiterating calls for an end to violence, Stanekzai said: “The biggest and most important priority of our people is to stop the bloodshed in the country,” adding that the Afghan population was putting all its hope in the hand of negotiators to end the killing and suffering. 

In conclusion, he stated that in respect of the withdrawal of foreign troops, the security and safety of the people must be taken seriously “and we must have a comprehensive dialogue on this issue.”

 

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Gov’t calls for end to Afghan peace talks ‘censorship’

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

The Ministry of Information and Culture on Wednesday spoke out against the lack of information coming out of the Doha peace talks and said the Afghan media should also have a place at the talks table. 

Addressing a press conference in Kabul Abdul Manan Shiway-e Sharq, the Deputy Minister of Information and Culture said in order to preserve post-Taliban regime achievements,  representatives of the Afghan media should have an active role in the Afghan Peace Negotiations (APN). 

Sharq also called on government and the Taliban to not censor the process.

Very few details have been revealed in the past 10 days – since the start of the talks – and only occasional snippets of information are released to the media by both sides.

 “According to the Right to Information Act, as the Access to Information and Commission exists, and according to mass media code, censorship is against the law,” Sharq said.

He said government is committed to upholding freedom of speech, “therefore, we demand both the leadership of Afghanistan as well as the negotiators of the Taliban in Doha determine the position of the Afghan media in the peace talks.”

Even living in the age of digital technology, Sharq stated that what happens behind closed doors must not be censored and that Afghan journalists should also be allowed to cover the process.

“Media is considered and regarded as the fourth estate of democracy and democratic society,” he said.

“The Ministry of Information and Culture’s position is that censorship must be put aside, the media should have the right to cover anything that happens during the negotiations and representatives of the Afghan media should have an active presence around the negotiations table so that they preserve their rights.”

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Three-day expo of Iranian goods and services underway in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

Iran is hosting a three-day trade exhibition in Kabul in the hope of strengthening bilateral trade ties with Afghanistan. 

Speaking at the event, Iran’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Bahador Aminian said the exhibition aims to promote trade and share technical “know-how” with Afghanistan. 

Iran’s Commercial Consular in Kabul Javanmard Qassab said the exhibition will last for three days in an effort to introduce Iranian products to Afghan customers.

He said the embassy was hoping to sign agreements between Iranian and Afghan businesses. 

Trade value between the two countries has now topped $1.5 billion, with Iran exporting a large amount of goods to its neighbor annually. 

Afghan traders are also showcasing their products to Iranian businesses.

 Representatives of 21 Iranian companies that offer services within the municipal sector are participating along with 54 other Iranian companies. 

These companies are from a cross-sector of the commercial industry including technical and engineering services, along with electricity, energy and telecommunications providers.

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Abdullah to visit Pakistan, says both sides have ‘grievances’

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

Chairman of the High Council for Afghanistan Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah said he will visit Pakistan within the next few days – the first time since 2008 – and implied issues between the two countries need to be ironed out. 

He said there is a “lot of mistrust, founded or unfounded,” and that there are “lots of grievances on both sides”, adding that the two countries need to work together as there have been many missed opportunities over the past 40 years. 

Addressing a virtual conference of the US Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday, Abdullah also said some of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners freed over the past two months have returned to the battlefield, which is in violation of the US-Taliban agreement signed in February. 

He did say however that he did not know how many ex-prisoners had taken up arms again, but did not think it was the majority.

“But I do know that some have returned to the battlefield, which is a violation of the agreement that they had made. I do know that this has happened. I have examples in some areas, and these people have started insurgency in those – in those areas once they left. But I would say that the majority have not returned to the battlefield. That might be – that might be the right assessment. But some have.”

He also pointed out the current level of violence in the country is very high.

“At the moment, unfortunately, the level of violence is very high. The number of security incidents initiated by the Taliban in different parts of the country has increased, not decreased.

“And it’s important – and that was part of my message yesterday in the – in the Universal Day for Peace – that while the negotiations continue and we assume that both sides have participated in good faith in those negotiations, it’s critical that we see a reduction in violence in order to be able to maintain the popular support for the peace process on the ground. Otherwise, the people of Afghanistan will not – will not understand.”

Abdullah also explained that no one expects or anticipates a comprehensive peace deal to be signed with the Taliban within a “few days”. 

“We know that it will take time. But at the same time, since the aim of this is to achieve peace and stability throughout the country, we need to prove it in practice as well that what we can do is reduction – significant reduction in violence.”

He stated the Afghan government’s position on the need for a reduction in violence was very clear. 

“But unfortunately, so far the level of violence is very high and to a level that is not acceptable for the people.”

Again he repeated his call to the Taliban and to all partners who have leverage over the Taliban to reiterate the need for less violence. 

“But the way forward is to realize that these extremist terrorist elements which are taking advantage of the situation, like al-Qaeda and ISIS, or any other terrorist organization, are not serving any country’s interest. They’re only after the opportunities. 

“And when the war ends, these groups will not have a foothold. Otherwise, they will turn against any other – any country that they want, of their choice. They will choose it for themselves. That is – that is what we need to focus on and that will be the focus of our get-together – or my visit to Pakistan, which will be official visit, and I’ll see what the leadership in Pakistan and the leaders of the institutions there [say],” he said.

Differences Clear

On the current talks underway in Doha, Abdullah said they had “started well” and the atmosphere between the two teams, considering their differences, is healthy. 

He said the Afghan team senses a “willingness” on the part of the Taliban to take advantage of the opportunity and to contribute. 

“Nobody can ignore all the complexities involved…both sides come from two different worldviews – views about the life, about rights of citizens, about the – our vision of our own country, and all of that. 

“And at the same time, we have come together with all those differences to find a way to live in peace with one another and maintain our differences of views and let the people decide about it in the future, but at the same time put an – put an end to the misery of the people which have continued for so long,” he said. 

He stated there “will be spoilers around. There will be people which may worry about certain things. But as a whole, I can say that the people of Afghanistan are hopeful. At the same time, they have concerns. Do we go back to the old days? What happens to the – to the gains of the people of Afghanistan, which is as a result of too many sacrifices here from us Afghans and our friends and partners? 

“And can we – can we get to a point where, while maintaining our views and way of life, agree to live in peace within a country – a sovereign country without allowing terrorist groups, without resorting to violence, and then compete for our ideas peacefully and politically?”

He said the flip side of the coin was if the two sides don’t reach an agreement, then the “continuation of the agony, misery, suffering, migration, and all sorts of other situations that we have been through. That will continue.”

So it’s a moment of being hopeful, but at the same time one shouldn’t lose sight of all those risks which are involved, he said adding that “eventually and ultimately, the absolute majority of our people are for a dignified, durable peace, a country which is unified and does not harbor terrorist groups and respects the rights of its own citizens and contributes to the wellbeing of its own people.”

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