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Minister Calls for Political Will to Curb Smuggling

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 15:10

The Acting Minister of Counter Narcotics Din Mohammad Mubarez Rashidi on Tuesday reported that drug smugglers, in joint collaboration with the Taliban, have launched major clashes in various regions to ensure the flow of drug money, adding that the political will to curb the menace has not been strong enough.

Summoned at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Rashidi asserted that many of the recent battles in various parts of the country were fought over drugs.

"The battles fought in recent days in southern Helmand and some other provinces have been fought over drugs by major drug mafia in the shape of the Taliban or alongside the Taliban," he said. "It is obvious that it is a drug war."

In addition, Rashidi said that the funds derived from drug-smuggling are estimated to around $80 billion on an annual basis.

"From the total amount of about $70 or $80 billion, only one million goes to the poppy farmers and another $150 million or so goes to armed insurgents."

Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Health, Suraya Dalil, too, emphasized on a solid political will to seriously accelerate anti-drug efforts and remove the roots of the problem.

"We have to undertake serious work to combat drug smuggling in joint cooperation with the neighboring countries and the international community, mainly those that are the victims of drug smuggling," Dalil said.

Over the past 13 years, more than $7.8 billion was allocated for efforts to combat drug smuggling in Afghanistan.

Based on the statement of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, 53 percent of the overall opium is cultivated in southern Helmand, one of the most insecure provinces in the country.

Despite this, Afghanistan still constitutes the world's largest producer of opium.

650 People Receive Hearing Aids in Kabul

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 14:38

On Tuesday a national and an international aid agency, Bayat Foundation and Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation, distributed hearing-aids to 650 deaf children and youth going to deaf schools in Kabul.

According to reports, some of the kids are born deaf, while others have been victims of other incidents and diseases.

Both organizations stressed that there should be more initiatives to provide the disabled with necessary means to reach their potential.

"The deaf children need our attention. They could be the leaders of the country and the world in the future," founder of Bayat Foundation, Ehsan Bayat, said.

Member of Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation, Bill Austin, added that their team came to the event "as respect to those who suffer from disability."

The kids, who will now be able to hear sounds they could not previously hear, expressed happiness about the aids through sign language.

"One of my biggest dreams was being able to hear," deaf student Mujib Rahman said.

Another student Maryam stated that she had come to receive the hearing-aid so she "could be able to hear."

According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, roughly 100,000 people who are deaf have been registered with the ministry, most of whom are victims of war.

Delay in Approval of the RAIL, Rise of Violence Against Journalists: NAI

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:46

NAI—an NGO supporting open media in Afghanistan—and a number of journalists on Tuesday said that the delay in approval of the Right to Access Information law (RAIL) has contributed to the rise of violence against journalists in the country.

"Ratification of the bill will help journalists get access to accurate and precise information," Head of NAI Sediqullah Tawhidi said, also stating that there should be a monitoring committee to oversee the bill's implementation.

Journalists have asked for the approval of the RAIL, adding that government and non-government officials are preventing access to information. According to NAI, the approval of the law will make access to information easier.

"I have encountered problems while trying to receive information many times and I ask the President to approve the law quickly," journalist Wahida Faizai said.
Another journalist Emad Rostaye added that "the approval of the law will also pave the way for investigative reports."

In the past few weeks only, 18 cases of violence such as beating and imprisonment of journalists have been recorded. Moreover, reports indicate that some high-ranking government officials, such as Kunduz and Ghazni governors, have shown harsh attitudes toward journalists in the recent weeks.

After three years of circulation in governmental offices, the six-chapter, 32-article law was finally approved by the Parliament more than a month ago. It is now awaiting the president's approval.

Kargar Receives Honorable Football Award

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 09:08

The National Football Team Coach, Yousef Kargar was awarded the title of the most prominent and influential man in the history of Afghan football by Afghanistan's Football Federation (AFF) at an event in Kabul on Monday.

This is the first time in the history of the country that a football coach has received such an award.

Kargar received this award over his recent success in South Asia, winning the FIFA Fair Play award and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Best Football Federation award in 2013.

"Until we do no increase our capacities, we will not reach our goals," Kargar said accepting the award. "This is an honor for me today to have receive such an award. There are other people who deserve this award in the AFF."

The event was held at a private hotel in Kabul. During the momentous ceremony, a number of other Afghan coaches received certificates issued by FIFA and the AFC for their efforts and time.

Roshan Afghan Premier League (RAPL) Commissioner, Shafic Gawhari, said that Kargar "is a person that has always raised Afghanistan's flag."

"His family and friends live outside of the country, but he has decided to stay in Afghanistan because of his love for football," Gawhari added.

A number of Afghans have said that football is the new face of Afghanistan.

"Football means national unity in the country; it means a stronger and unified Afghanistan," Sayed Massoud, a professor at Kabul University, said.

Kargar, who is 51 years old, previously was the assistant coach and today stands as Afghanistan's National Football Team coach for more than four years.

Changing Face of News and Online Advocacy

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 08:38

During the last day of the second annual Afghan Social Media Summit, talks were held on the evolution of news in today's digital age that have paved the way to diminish the gap between the people and the government.

Representative for Mobile Peace Reporting, Javid Faisal, said that the digital age has allowed "citizen journalists to send their stories via text messages or voice messages," which has created a stage for discussions and a developing relationship between the government and the people.

"We want to get people involved in the government," Faisal said hinting at the power and capacity of mobile phones.

In efforts to forming an honest, transparent and reliable relationship between the government and its people, SadRoz.af is an initiative that aims to keep the government accountable on the promises made during the presidential campaigns.

"We started SadRoz.af to institutionalize democracy," Aziz Koshan, representative for the initiative, said. "We want to hold the government accountable to their promises by tracking their promises with the help of citizen journalists in areas we cannot reach."

Mohammad Sufyan, head of Pajhwok's communication and marketing, added to Koshan's statement that social media is a viral and efficient platform for individuals to accentuate and highlight issues.

"Strong campaigns shared on social media creates large public awareness and interaction," Sufyan said.

In a separate panel that expanded on online advocacy on women's rights, Monica Ibrahimi represented HarassMap in Egypt, discussing the issue of harassment and the role of social media in tackling it.

Ibrahimi stated that harassment is not a women's issue, but a societal issue, stressing that social attitudes toward the issue need to change. A volunteer-based initiative, HarassMap aims to end "the social acceptability of sexual harassment and assault in Egypt."

"We want to change the common social norms and shift the blame from women to harassers," Ibrahimi said. "We want people and bystanders to speak up against harassment and see it for what it is, a crime."

After Ibrahimi's presentation, Eileen Guo, the founder of Impassion Media and Impassion Afghanistan, stated that HarassMap can be a great model for Afghanistan.
"Campaigns can be started by anyone—without any campaign budget," Guo said.

Tuesday marked the last day of the second annual Afghan Social Media Summit in Kabul. The summit detailed aspects of social media that can be used in innovative and progressive that can impact and cooperate with mainstream media, spread awareness, and hold involve the people in the government.

FARAKHABAR: 20 October 2014

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 06:55

After more than seven months from the provincial council elections, the electoral commission has not announced the final results of the election.

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The delay in the announcing the result of the provincial council election has added the number of the dissatisfaction over the electoral commissions. But the Deputy of the IEC claimed that the election was successful in the region.

Will the National Unity Government bring reformations in the electoral commissions?

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Yama Siawish discusses the topic with MP Helai Ershad and political analyst Mawalana Farid.

First 100 Days: Kabul Bank Case Deadline Ends

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 05:22

In this episode of the program, host Omid Farooq discusses about the ending of President Ashraf Ghani's deadline for the investigations of the Kabul Bank corruption case with the following guests:

• Raeb Noori, TOLOnews reporter
• Mahmoud Karzai, brother of former President Hamid Karzai
• Shah Hussian Murtazawi, journalist
• Naqibullah Fayeq, MP

To watch the program, click here:


Tawde Khabare: Re-Opening of the Kabul Bank Case

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 05:11

In this episode of Tawde Khabare, host Shapoor Bakthyar discusses the re-opening of the Kabul Bank case with the following guests:

• Mohammad Asif Ashna, Aware of the issues relating to corruption
• Amir Khan Yar, MP

To watch the program, click here:


UPDATE: Four ANA Soldiers Killed in Kabul Blast

TOLO News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 04:06

Four Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were killed and 12 others including three civilians were injured in a blast in Kabul City early Tuesday, local officials said.

The blast took place in Aqa Ali Shams area of district seven of Kabul City, after an ANA vehicle was passing the area and a remote controlled mine that was placed on the road, detonated, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.

The victims have been taken to a nearby hospital, according to eyewitnesses.

The police have blocked the road to traffic and have started investigations.

In the past three weeks, the Afghan military forces vehicles have been targeted in different parts of Kabul.

"The problem is this that intelligence organizations need to increase their efforts and equipment in searching for mines," deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Najib Danish said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

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TOLOnews 6 pm News 20 October 2014

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 16:23

Top news in this Bulletin:

A member of the committee charged with overseeing new ministerial appointments on Monday said that discussions were ongoing regarding who from President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah's respective electoral teams would be tapped for an appointment in the new cabinet.

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 Next week the Afghan Parliament will decide whether or not to completely reject or endorse the Kabul-Washington Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which will determine whether or not foreign troops have a presence in Afghanistan post-2014

Guarantors to Face Legal Action if Bank Suspects Don't Show for Court

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:55

The Attorney General's office has cautioned that the guarantors of individuals being called to court for questioning in the reopened Kabul Bank case, which include top Afghan government officials and foreign embassies, could face legal repercussions if the suspects they vouched for do not return for the proceedings.

President Ashraf Ghani's decision to immediately tackle Afghanistan's biggest corruption case of the post-Taliban era upon his taking office has been applauded by many who hoped to see the new administration take on corruption issues early on. The move, while encouraging confidence in the new Kabul government, is also being viewed as a major test for Afghanistan's legal and judicial institutions, which have been associated with major corruption problems themselves.

With the case lying in the appellate court, the Attorney General's office has said only seven of the 19 individuals accused of embezzlement have been arrested and are expected to be present in court.

"We are in touch with some of the defendants who were released on bail and are trying to bring them to the court," Attorney General spokesman Basir Azizi said.
"If the guarantors fail to convince them to appear in court, they will face legal actions on the basis of the prevailing laws of the country."

According to investigators, the Ministry of Finance and the Indian Embassy both vouched for individuals accused of involvement in the Kabul Bank case and got them out of jail on bail. But the Kabul Police Department has said at least nine of the accused individuals have fled the country and their arrest is out of their capabilities.

"Police arrested seven of the accused individuals who were in Kabul, but two of them who were guaranteed by the Indian embassy must be dealt with through diplomatic channels, Interpol can arrest them, but not the Kabul police," Police Chief Zahir Zahir said.

The Attorney General's office was the organ charged by Ghani's presidential order with overseeing the reopening of the Kabul bank case, so it is expected to be held accountable for the outcome, adding pressure to make sure there are convictions.

"If the legal and judicial institutions fail to pursue the case, it means that they ignored the presidential order, this would indicate that the legal and judicial organs aren't cooperating," political commentator Mir Ahmad Joyenda told TOLOnews.

President Ghani gave legal authorities until the London Summit expected to start on November 24 to finalize the case. The summit will be an important gathering of the international community in which levels of aid and strategy for Afghanistan will be discussed. The Afghan government, no doubt, hopes a speedy resolution to the Kabul Bank case will inspire confidence among the donor countries that attend the summit.

Government Should Prioritize Environmental Issues

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:44

French Ambassador to Kabul Jean-Michel Marlaud emphasized on the support of his country for making the environment in Afghanistan better, stating that the international community has failed to decrease greenhouse gas in the world.

"Our commitments to support Afghanistan will not end in 2014," Marlaud said. "We have strategic commitments and a vision," adding that he launched a 10 million Euro project on behalf of the French government to improve the environment in Bamyan province last week.

Meanwhile, at a meeting in Kabul on Sunday, a group of people gathered to discuss ways Afghanistan could participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in 2015. The participants emphasized on reduction of greenhouse gases around the world.

In response to the recent statements, Kabul Mayor Mohammad Yunus Nawandish said that the city's environment has improved since the past year.

"We have made a lot of efforts to improve the environment in the city," he said. "We have planted about five million trees that we take care of. They have brought great changes to the city."

The Afghan National Environmental Protection Agency has requested that all environmental organizations should come together to come up with effective plans to reduce pollution.

"We should establish green places and reduce garbage and have systems for their management," head of the agency, Ezatullah Sadiqi, said.

Global changes in the world can affect the environment in Afghanistan and vice versa; therefore, active participation in the upcoming summit in Paris is considered very important for the country.

Parliament to Vote on BSA, SOFA Next Week

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:24

Next week the Afghan Parliament will decide whether or not to completely reject or endorse the Kabul-Washington Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which will determine whether or not foreign troops have a presence in Afghanistan post-2014.

The agreements were sent for review by Parliament's International Relations Committee last Tuesday, and will be looked over by each of the 17 parliamentary commissions. The legislators will not have the authority to bring any changes or amendments to the provisions of the agreement, but instead will only be able to give each one of the deals a simple up or down vote.

"Transcripts of the agreements have been dispatched to international relations commission of parliament by the administrative board and members of the commission have started discussions over the transcript of the pacts," Parliament Secretary Syed Ekram said.

Many MPs have come out in public support of both agreements in lead up to the vote. After the BSA was approved by a Loya Jirga last November, despite former President Hamid Karzai's reservations, Afghan leaders have been very open about their support for the accords.

"Signing the agreements is in the interests of Afghanistan's economic growth and security situation, and we saw the example of that in the Sangin war in which international forces provided air support to the Afghan army against the Taliban," MP Zekriya Zekriya said.

When Karzai was refusing to sign the pacts, Washington warned that in addition to a full troop withdraw, the U.S. and its allies would have no choice but to cut financial support for the Afghan forces if there was no deal in place governing the terms of the partnership in the coming years.

The BSA and SOFA agreements were both signed in Kabul a day after the new government took the charge in the country, after both candidates had committed to finalizing them upon taking office. Afghan National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar signed the agreements with the U.S. and NATO ambassadors.

Cabinet Appointment Process Underway

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:11

A member of the committee charged with overseeing new ministerial appointments on Monday said that discussions were ongoing regarding who from President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah's respective electoral teams would be tapped for an appointment in the new cabinet.

Alami Balkhi said the full appointment process would likely take a long time, despite the fact that President Ghani set a 45-day deadline back in mid September following his inauguration.

"For preparing a comprehensive list of qualified and effective cabinet members, we need more time as the cabinet is being formed from two electoral teams who used to be rivals," Balkhi said. "Appointments expected from the winning team also need time; you are aware that in the second term of [former] President Hamid Karzai, he announced his cabinet after two months. It is natural for the appointments of qualified individuals to take time."

Balkhi's comments come at time when many Afghan MPs have raised concerns about the conduct of acting ministers, who will be serving in the cabinet until new, permanent appointments are made. Chief among the issues raised by the MPs have been inefficient work and corruption.

"Appointment of ministers must be conducted on the basis of commitments, professionalism, honesty and faithfulness, ministers who are expected to be appointed must not be involved in embezzlement and discrimination...they should be national personalities to revitalize national trust," MP Habiba Danish said.

"The cabinet must be formed as soon as possible, because acting ministers do not show interest in working," Balkh MP Abbas Ibrahimzada said. "Corruption has also increased in the ministries after ministers turned into acting ministers."

Daily Decrease in Value of Afghani Compared to USD

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:07

Reports indicate that the value of the Afghani, the Afghan currency, has decreased compared to the U.S. Dollar (USD).

According to money exchangers at the Shahzada market of Kabul, in the past two weeks, the U.S. dollar supply has decreased to half by the Central Bank, causing a decrease in the value of the Afghani.

"Before Eid, the Central Bank supplied close to $80 million every week, but now the amount has decreased to half," Muhammad Zeerak, spokesman for the Shahzada Market Money Exchangers Union, said.

Meanwhile, officials at the Central Bank have stated the reason behind the decrease in the value of the Afghani are the increase in the country's imports and the decrease in its exports, adding that people's dollar savings have also contributed to decreasing the value of the Afghani.

"We will try to increase the value of Afghani by adding to the amount of USD that we supply to the market every week," Muhammad Eisa Turab, Second Deputy of Central Bank, said.

Meanwhile, a number of economic analysts have said that the decrease in foreign aid, the increase in the country's imports and the decrease in the government's income are among the main factors behind the instability of the country's currency.

"Unless we focus on fundamental solutions, this problem will not end," economy Professor at Kabul University, Taj Muhammad Akbar, said. "It is important to root out the reasons behind the decreasing value of the Afghani. The decrease in government revenue and foreign aid are among those reason."

This is while some recent reports have claimed that the Afghan government is bankrupt and is unable to even pay the salaries of its employees.

Lack of Coordination in Afghan Forces Increases Casualties

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 14:48

Figures show that the Afghan National Army (ANA) casualties are higher than they have been in the past 12 years.

Experts have named some of the main causes as the security transition from foreign to international forces, the direct support of Pakistani military forces for insurgents and the occasional recklessness of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Ministry of Defense (MoD) spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said that certain mistakes by the ANA have increased the fatalities for the forces.

"Mistakes happen, but negligence should be assessed and those at fault should be held accountable," Azimi said.

Lack of coordination among lower security departments and organization between the ANA and Afghan National Police (ANP) are also considered as causes involved in the rise of casualties on the Afghan side.

Security ministries have acknowledged that there is lack of coordination among the security forces that are in need of improvement.

Ministry of Interior (MoI) spokesman Sediq Sediqqi stated that coordination is good among high-level management, but not at the lower ranks of the forces.

"We need to improve coordination in all levels, especially in low level security forces," he said, adding that as Taliban's war season ends and winter approaches, the ANP and ANA will launch major military operations in different parts of the country to rid them of insurgents.

Reports indicate that an accurate assessment of threats by the security forces and usage of precise intelligence information can substantially decrease ANA casualties.

Tawde Khabare: Pakistan National Security Advisor's Trip to Afghanistan

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 09:44

In this episode of Tawde Khabare, host Shapoor Bakthyar discusses the Pakistan National Security Advisor, Sartaj Aziz's trip to Afghanistan with the following guests:

• Daoud Kalakani, MP
• Ghulaam Hussian Naseri, MP
• Atiqullah Amarkhil, military analyst

To watch the program, click here:


Role of Social Media in 2014 Presidential Elections

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 09:26

On the second day of the annual Afghan Social Media Summit in Kabul a panel was held to discuss the role of social media during the 2014 presidential elections.

The panel was moderated by Lotfullah Najafizada, head of TOLOnews, with four panelists including Ahmad Shuja, representative of Paiwandgah program; Nate Smith, representative of Development Seed; Jawed Faisal, representative of Abdullah Abdullah's campaign; and Amrullah Moheb, representative of Ashraf Ghani's campaign.

The panelists discussed the pros and cons of social media from the perspective of their individual platforms, but all emphasized that social media facilitated citizen engagement in the election process.

"Our purpose was to reach all people, regardless of where in the country they were," Faisal said.

Moheb added that their campaign's sole purpose via social media was to "share their campaign objectives."

Citizen journalists were actively engaged in the electoral process, unveiling issues overlooked by election management bodies and holding each campaign team accountable.

"Everyone was a journalist during elections," Moheb said. "People uncovered fraud by posting pictures and videos on social media."

The visuals provided by citizen journalists reached a large audience inside and outside of Afghanistan, creating a transnational dialogue in areas that could not be reached.

"Facebook and Twitter users helped us reach areas that our observers could not," Faisal said. "Social media was the best way to create a direct relationship with each campaign."

In resonance to Faisal's statement, Shuja added that "the citizen journalism program (Paiwandgah) could be in touch with people in remote places that national and international advisors could not. Social media surveys enabled an understanding of people's priorities and demands."

As great of a positive impact social media made during the presidential elections, the panelists all concurred that it also created challenges by giving people the advantage of anonymity.

The three-day event will be concluded tomorrow with a panel discussion on the changing face of news and online advocacy for women's rights. This was the second annual summit on social media in Afghanistan.

First 100 Days: Afghanistan Signs Treaty With Turkey

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 08:05

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his visit to Afghanistan on Saturday signed a cooperation treaty with the Afghan government, promising that Turkish aid would continue to flow.

In this episode of the program, host Omid Farooq discusses the topic with the following guests:

• Haris Jamalzada, TOLOnews reporter
• Abdul Qayoum Sajadi, MP
• Sediq Patman, for deputy for the Minister of Education
• Farid Hashimi, University professor
• Mahdi Munadi, University professor

To watch the program, click here:


FARAKHABAR: 19 October 2014

TOLO News - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 05:36

Discussions are still continuing between the two power partners over the formation of the new cabinet, but it's still unclear when the cabinet will be introduced.

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The formation of the cabinet will illustrate how the president and chief executive are able to work together in the coming years, but as the introduction of the cabinet is delayed speculations have surfaced that tension between the two have formed.

The question is, what kind of cabinet will be formed?

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Yama Siawish discusses the topic with political analyst, Amin Farhang and Fatema Aziz, MP.

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