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UN envoy optimistic about peace prospects in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2020)

The UN’s top envoy in Afghanistan said the country now has a unique opportunity to turn the corner to a brighter, more stable future after four decades of war.

Deborah Lyons via a video conference told the Security Council on Thursday that even as an unprecedented global pandemic threatens to unravel many of the hard-won socio-economic gains Afghanistan has made over the years, there is now a moment of “emerging hope.”

The UN envoy, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban negotiation teams will start in the next few weeks in Doha. 

“As the two sides embark on what will likely be a long and complex series of talks, I have encouraged them to show the necessary flexibility and foresight, the commitment to peace and, most importantly, compassion for their people that will be needed to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion,” she told the Security Council.

Lyons, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), described how the formal announcement of a three-day Eid ceasefire by the Taliban and the Government led to a welcome and much-needed reduction in violence. 

“A reduction in violence is essential to an environment conducive for peace talks and to pave the way for an eventual permanent ceasefire,” she stressed, telling the Security Council that the United Nations stands ready to support direct peace talks and noting that she has been in discussion with both sides to identify and address their needs, going forward.

The UN envoy described how she has engaged with partners from the region and beyond, and said she is confident that a constructive atmosphere for the peace process can be fostered. But at the same time as new opportunities for peace emerge, she said, COVID-19 is casting a shadow over daily life in Afghanistan.

“Under the leadership of the Afghan Government, the UN is supporting a coordinated response to fight this epidemic,” she said, pointing out how she is counting on the continued generosity of the international community to allow the United Nations to carry forward with the Afghan Government an essential response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to presenting an update on prospects for peace and the fight against COVID-19, Lyons highlighted developments in human rights and the humanitarian situation. She spoke about the harsh realities of life for many Afghans and the human cost of Afghanistan’s conflict, which continues to take a devastating toll on civilians, especially children.

In closing, Lyons stressed that COVID-19 is not just a health crisis. She called it a “multi-dimensional crisis impacting an already fragile country.” But by working together, she said, we can overcome COVID-19 and support Afghanistan at the beginning of its nascent peace process so that its people can finally achieve the lasting peace they deserve.

“The UN will continue to stand in partnership with the Afghan people through this time of unprecedented challenge and fragile hope,” she said. “The Afghan people will look to the guidance, to the support, and to the unity of this Council as they chart their way forward on their long road to peace.”

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Abdullah introduces list of cabinet nominees to Presidential Palace

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

Abdullah Abdullah, the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation has introduced a list of cabinet nominees to the Presidential Palace.

Sources close to Abdullah, however, say that there are still differences over the proposed list between Abdullah front-rows over seat distribution.

Figures listed as candidates for the designated-ministers; Massoud Andarabi for the Ministry of Interior Affairs, Fazl Ahmad Manavi for Ministry of Justice, Anwar al-Haq Ahadi for Ministry of Agriculture, Noor Rahman Akhlaqi for Ministry of Immigration, Mohebullah Samim for Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs, Mostafa Mastoor for Ministry of Peace, Masoumah Khavari for Ministry of Communications, Nisar Ahmad Ghoriani for Ministry of Commerce, Mansour Saadat Naderi for Ministry of Economy, Bashir Ahmad Tahianj for Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Kanishka Turkestani for Ministry of Higher Education, Abbas Basir for Ministry of Transport and Najib Agha Fahim, Candidate for Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled.

The list of ministerial nominees for Abdullah Abdullah’s share, however, has clashed within his party members.

Sources close to Abdullah say that the National Movement Party wants three ministries from Abdullah’s share and does not agree with this list.

According to sources, the National Movement has nominated Bashir Ahmad Tahianj for the Ministry of Agriculture, Qudratullah Zaki for the Ministry of Transportation and Kanishka Turkestani for the Ministry of Immigration.

But some other figures close to Abdullah deny the disagreements within the group.

On the other hand, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance says that 11 new provincial governors have been nominated by the president so far and that this process will continue. Abdullah Abdullah, according to the power-sharing agreement between him and Ghani, can introduce 50% of the Afghan cabinet members.

Arg and Sapidar Palace have not officially commented on the matter.

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Afghanistan customs revenue lost to ’embezzlement’

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

Although taxpayers pay customs duties at the Afghan customs, not all of the revenue being collected in the Afghan government’s account, local officials said.

The ports of Torkham in Nangarhar, Islam Qala in Herat, Hairatan in Balkh, Aqina in Faryab, Spin Boldak in Kandahar, Shirkhan Bandar in Kunduz, Angur Ada in Paktika and several other ports in the north and south of the country have witnessed widespread corruption.

In these ports, although custom fees are paid by taxpayers, little money is raised in government reserves, most of the ports are said to be in the hands of gunmen and the powerful.

Local officials in the provinces where the ports are located say that corruption in customs has recently peaked.

On the other hand, the Integrity Watch of Afghanistan criticizes the lack of administrative reforms, adding that unreasonable appointments have increased corruption in the country’s customs and that the government has not yet taken any steps to reform the process. According to the head of the institution, the current situation has led to organized corruption in customs.

The Ministry of Finance also promises to bring transparency to the country’s customs.

Finance Ministry spokesman Shamrooz Khan Masjidi said customs revenues are being closely monitored to prevent corruption.

Earlier, the governor of Herat said that Islam Qala’s revenue was being looted by mafia gangs and the warlords. According to economists, this is the case in most of the country’s customs.

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COVID-19

Afghanistan witnesses decline in Coronavirus cases: MoPH

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

Jawad Osmani, Acting Minister of the Public Health, says the number of people infected with the Coronavirus decreased to halve compared to a month and a half ago. 

Coronavirus has declined in Afghanistan; as the Acting Minister of Public Health himself has removed the medical mask from his face at the press conference and used a home mask instead. 

Javad Osmani said: “Compared to two months ago, the infected patients to the virus decreased by 30 percent. If the Coronavirus patients do not reach less than 5%, the situation will not get back to normal.”

On the other hand, the Anti-Corona Emergency Committee warns that as of today, 15 moving teams are inspecting restaurants, cafes, and parks, and if they do not follow the health recommendations, they will be fined first and then they will be banned.

“Today we have sent 15 moving teams to the city to fine and block restaurants and cafes that have started arbitrarily, and this time nothing is acceptable,” said Mohammad Yaqub Haidari, Kabul’s governor.

Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs said that those citizens who remain out of the Hajj shift this year will be able to perform the Hajj next year while maintaining the same shift.

Officials at the Ministry of Public Health say that researchers have found that the Coronavirus can spread through the air. They warn people if they do not avoid unnecessary patrols and commute on Eid al-Adha, they will see the second wave of coronavirus.

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