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Shpageeza Cricket League 2020 scheduled to kick off in September

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(Last Updated On: July 19, 2020)

Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) announced on Saturday the 7th edition of the Shpageeza Cricket League, which is an annual domestic T20 cricket tournament, will kick off in September at the Kabul Cricket Stadium. 

The season will run for a period of two weeks starting from September 13, with the final match taking place on September 25.

So far, the country’s cricket board has successfully hosted six seasons of the Shpageeza Cricket League since 2014.

National Radio Television of Afghanistan (RTA) meanwhile secured the rights to broadcast this year’s tournament.

The agreement was signed in Kabul on Saturday between Himatullah Niazmand from RTA and the Afghan Cricket Board (ACB) CEO Lutfullah Stanikzai.

After signing the agreement for Afghanistan’s domestic Twenty20 tournament, Stanikzai remarked: “High-quality broadcasting of the league is our priority and I am pleased that ACB and RTA could collaborate again for the same purpose after a successful sixth edition last year.”

Niazmand said: “It is a pleasing news that we get to collaborate with ACB again. RTA always strives for quality when it comes to broadcasting matches to our cricket fans.”

Following a request to the Ministry of Public Health, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was given the go-ahead this month to take place.

The Shpageeza tournament has six franchises and could include players from the national team, from overseas, players from the ‘A’ team and players from the under 19 team as well as elite performers from the respective regions participating in the tournament.

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Stoltenberg says NATO ‘adjusting’ its presence to support Afghan peace process

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said he welcomes the planned peace talks between the government and the Taliban and said NATO is adjusting its presence to support the peace initiative. 

Taking to Twitter, Stoltenberg said: “I spoke to President Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah (Abdullah) to welcome the upcoming start of intra-Afghan talks. All parties should seize this historic moment for peace. NATO stand with Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism, as we adjust our presence to support the peace process.

This comes after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday signed a decree to release the final 400 prisoners in order to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks.

The Presidential Palace (ARG) confirmed on Monday evening on Twitter that the decree had been signed at a ceremony attended by senior Afghan leaders.

Ghani said on Sunday, after the Loya Jirga’s resolution on the prisoner issue had been issued, that he would respect the decision of the Jirga and release the prisoners – some of whom have been accused of having masterminded some of the deadliest attacks in the country over the past 19 years.

Government sources said Monday that the Afghan peace negotiating team would leave Kabul on Wednesday for Doha, Qatar, and that talks with the Taliban would likely start on Sunday.

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Second group of Afghan Sikhs due to leave for India Wednesday

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

A group of as many as 180 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are expected to leave Afghanistan for India on Wednesday. 

The Times of India reported Tuesday that the group will likely be relatives of the victims killed in the March temple attack in Kabul which claimed the lives of 25 Sikhs.

India’s Sikh community has pledged its help and has so far evacuated 11 Sikhs – the first of what could become hundreds. 

The first group left Kabul late last month and included Nidan Singh Sachdeva, who was abducted from a gurdwara in Paktia province in June.

Speaking to Singapore’s Straits Times, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said:  “We will do everything that we can to help the families out. We will help them with the education of their children.” 

Meanwhile, United Sikhs executive director Jagdeep Singh told the Times of India that their organization is assisting the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus wanting to leave with the necessary documents. 

He said United Sikhs had already finalized over 350 requests from Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to settle in India and they were working on the remainder. 

During the 1980s the Sikh and Hindu community numbered more than 80,000 but most left the country when the Soviet Union was ousted in 1992. 

Some returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban were ousted from power in the hope that things would improve. 

The Afghan government had encouraged their return but the community has faced vicious attacks claimed by Daesh during the past few years. Today, less than 700 live in their home country.

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Ghani signs decree ordering release of final batch of 400 Taliban prisoners

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday afternoon signed a decree to release the final 400 prisoners which will now pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks.

The Presidential Palace (ARG) confirmed on Monday evening on Twitter that the decree had been signed at a ceremony attended by senior Afghan leaders.

Ghani said on Sunday, after the Loya Jirga’s resolution on the prisoner issue had been issued, that he would respect the decision of the Jirga and release the prisoners – some of whom have been accused of having masterminded some of the deadliest attacks in the country over the past 19 years.

In February, the US and the Taliban signed an agreement in Doha which was a conditions-based deal in order to start negotiations.

One of the conditions on the Taliban’s part was that the Afghan government release 5,000 of its members.

Ghani duly did so but held back on the final batch of 400 who were seen as hardcore Taliban militants.

However, in the interests of working for peace, this weekend’s peace Jirga delegates, made up of over 3,200 tribal elders, community leaders and politicians, from around the country, decided the inmates should be freed.

The Taliban has said for weeks that once these prisoners are released they will agree to meet with the Afghan peace negotiating team.

Earlier Monday, government stated that talks would likely start on Sunday in Doha between the two peace negotiating teams. The Afghan government’s team is expected to leave Kabul on Wednesday.

Early Monday, the Taliban’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Reuters: “We are ready to sit for talks within a week from when we see our prisoners released. We are ready.”

It was not however clear on Monday night when the prisoners would in fact be freed.

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