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Shots Fired at Kabul Protest Against French Newspaper

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - 11 hours 36 min ago
Witnesses said at least eight people were wounded on Saturday at a demonstration against the French newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

What Can a Pregnant Photojournalist Cover? Everything

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - 11 hours 36 min ago
Not even carrying a child could keep Lynsey Addario from going to the world’s most dangerous places.

TOLOnews 6pm News 31 January 2015

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 15:39

Top news in this Bulletin:

The Kabul Police confirms at least seven people were injured during a protest against the publication of Prophet Mohammad published by the French Magazine Charlie Hebdo after it was attacked earlier in January for what was seen as "blasphemous" cartoons.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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Province of Farah's local security officials have confirmed sightings of the suspected Islamic State (IS) militants in the western parts of the province. Provincial council members have stressed that the newly-emerged fighters do not have the support of the people and would not make a place in the western zone.

Insecurity, Infrastructure Cited as Top Problems for Afghan Business in Private Sector Survey

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 15:10

Based on a new survey conducted by the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), 80 percent of private sector leaders questioned identified worsening security conditions as the single greatest challenge to Afghan businesses last year.

Problems in the current financial and customs systems of Afghanistan were among the other areas of concern reported by the 1,200 respondents across five major Afghan cities who participated in the survey.

When asked about the prospects for the future, officials at ACCI expressed optimism about potential improvements in the next three months.

The study shed light on some key areas for the government to work on if there is any possibility for economic conditions to improve and attract private sector growth in Afghanistan.

When asked about lack of electricity, 92 percent of the respondents said it was a major challenge. When asked about infrastructure, 77 percent of respondents said they faced major problems.

The other issues reported by the businesses were difficulties with customs in Herat and Nangarhar, contract law, bank guarantees, financing option shortages and administrative corruption.

"As much as we were optimistic about the conditions, it wasn't so," ACCI Board of Directors Chairman Atiqullah Nasrat said. "There are problems, and if in the future the government could tackle these problems, we will be optimistic for the development of economic conditions."

Nevertheless, ACCI analysts said the national unity government has not gotten off to a good start in it's first few months in office.

"Unfortunately, the promises that the government made have not been implemented," ACCI researcher Younus Negah said. "Even though there were many promises at the beginning, now we can see that the problems have increased."

Earlier in the week, the Afghan Industrial Union released a report identifying anti-competitive subsidy policies in neighboring countries as one of the biggest obstacles facing Afghan businesses, along with inadequate support from the Kabul government and increased imports of low quality goods from abroad.

Eight New Ministers, NDS Chief to Start Work After Taking Oath Sunday

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 15:09

Eight new ministers and the next National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief will start work following their swearing in ceremonies on Sunday, said Mujeev-ul-Rahman Rahimi, a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Reportedly President Ashraf Ghani can, through a decree, require that MPs return from recess in order to complete the necessary voting procedures to confirm the remainder of the national unity government's cabinet nominations.

Of the 18 nominees presented by the government to Parliament, only the NDS chief and eight ministers have received positive votes of confidence. The ministries expected to have new leaders at the helm next week include the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations and the National Directorate of Security.

"Tomorrow, after taking their oath, the eight new ministers and the Director of NDS, will start their work, and will put an end to the acting ministers," Mr. Rahimi said Saturday, his comments reflecting the frustrations that have emerged over the four months during which former President Hamid Karzai's appointees have remained in office past their due.

The national unity government has received heavy criticism for failing to form it's cabinet sooner. It remains unclear how soon Ghani and Abdullah will name the final nominees for Parliament to vote on.

"There is a chance that if both president and CEO agree on the remaining nominees, the president will call the MPs through a presidential decree to give a vote of confidence for the nominees," Rahimi said.

Lawmakers have said they would return from their 45-day annual vacation if need be. "We are for any legal solution for an end to this crisis," House Secretary Ifranllah Irfan said. "Instead of the ministries being run illegally by the acting ministers, we are ready to be called by the president once the remaining nominee lists are finalized; we not only support this type of action, we are also ready to return from our vacations."

Calls For Electoral Reform Fall Flat as National Unity Leaders Remain Divided

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 14:25

Despite making provision for the formation of a reform committee immediately upon it's ascension to power, now four months later, the national unity government of Afghanistan has failed to take event the first steps toward reform, let alone bring about fundamental changes.

According to a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, the main reason behind the delay in reform is disagreement between The two leaders of the government, Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani.

"There have been disagreements over reform details," said Mujeebul Rahman Rahimi, a spokesman for the Chief Executive. "Regarding the creation of an electoral reform commission, the president's opinion was that the commission should be created after the announcement of the cabinet, but our preference was to create it after the inauguration and it should have started its work and should not have been related to the cabinet."

Calls for reform have grown in volume in recent months as MPs and civil society activists criticize the government for not taking action on the issue that defined the climate of political crisis it emerged from at the end of the election process last year. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) were both alleged by Abdullah during the election to have conspired in favor of his opponent to win the race illegitimately.

"The way commissioners are hired, how the chairman is hired, deputies and secretary of commission, membership requirements, how the chairman and his deputies are selected, electoral commissions' employees and all the same changes will be brought to the Electoral Complaints Commission," vowed Muhammad Abda, the Chairman of Judicial Commission at the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, donor countries have expressed the desire to see concerted electoral reform before assuring future financial aid. When the election crisis reached it's peak, the U.S. and the United Nations were forced to step in and mediate negotiations between Ghani and Abdullah.

"With these people, and this system and capacity in the electoral commissions, it is very hard to expect a transparent and better elections in 2015," Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan Chairman Muhammad Naeem Ayoubzada said.

With parliamentary elections around the corner, many are worried the experience of last year' selections will deter Afghans from participation and open the door for larger scale fraud.

No Place for IS Fighters in Farah: Provincial Council

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 14:22

Province of Farah's local security officials have confirmed sightings of the suspected Islamic State (IS) militants in the western parts of the province. Provincial council members have stressed that the newly-emerged fighters do not have the support of the people and would not make a place in the western zone.

Following the rumors about the existence of IS fighters in a number of Farah districts, the Afghan National Army (ANA) Zafar Corps commander Gen. Taj Mohammad Jahid confirmed nearly 100 people, including foreigners, such as Arabs and Chechens, had joined the group.

"There are 70 Islamic State fighters including 13 foreigners present in Khak Safid district," Gen. Jahid said. "They don't allow people to get close to their base."

The head of the Provincial Council of Farah, Farid Bakhtawar, said that residents of Khak Safid had not allowed these fighters, who had also shifted their families to the district as well, to station in the district.

"The Islamic State has failed to win public support in Farah," Bakhtawar said. "Their crimes, including the sale of women, have caused the people to stand against them."

Reports indicate that the Iranian border forces have deployed additional troops to their areas that border with Farah after rumors about IS surfaced.

But the Afghan border police officials say they have not yet received any formal information about the presence of IS.

"We have not received any formal information in this regard," said Gen. Mohammad Juma Adeel, commander of the border police for the western zone. "The patrolling of Iranian border guards is normal because they always protect their borders."

However, the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoI) has repeatedly rejected the rumors, saying they were the same militants operating under new brands to create more attention and increase fears among the people.

Afghan Doctor Praised for His Innovative Medical Equipment

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 10:40

Dr. Safiullah Saadat, an Afghan physician working at the Kabul Police Hospital, after six years of hard work, has started making waves in Afghanistan and around the world for his innovative medical equipment designs that are said to be uniquely effective in treating bone fractures and other combat related injuries.

According to Dr. Saadat, the equipment models were developed through his practice treating soldiers and police injured in the line of duty over the years. He says he has already received orders from France and the United States and plans to begin producing large quantities for export, but needs financial assistance.

"With the help of the equipment, we can cure the wound and fracture in four stages and the equipment has no superior in the world," Dr. Saadat told TOLOnews on Friday. "The equipment is helpful in treating fractures made on someone's body during traffic accidents and war or as a result of a bullet wound," he added.

Esaruddin is an Afghan National Police (ANP) officer who was serving in Daman district of southern Kandahar province when he was wounded by a mine and lost one of his legs. Dr. Saadat's equipment has helped him in his recovery and he hopes to return to the battlefield to continue to serve his country. "I will return to the battlefield after healing," Esaruddin told TOLOnews. "If we do not fight, then who will defend the country?"

Hajji Lalai is another ANP officer who served for 13 years. He also lost one of his legs as a result of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast. "When my leg is healed, I will return to my job and defend the country until I am alive," Lalai said.

Another ANP officer Qasim praised the physical therapy work doctors like Dr. Saadat have had him do since getting injured. "The condition of my leg was critical, but now it is improving and I can walk," he said.

Anti-Blasphemy Protest Turns Violent in Kabul, 7 Injured

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 07:41

The Kabul Police confirms at least seven people were injured during a protest against the publication of Prophet Mohammad published by the French Magazine Charlie Hebdo after it was attacked earlier in January for what was seen as "blasphemous" cartoons.

The protest, which took place Saturday morning in Hootkhail area of Kabul, turned to violence after the protestors wanted to storm a private bank branch, said the Kabul Police Chief Gen. Abdul Rahman Rahimi.

The protestors began clashing with the police after they were stopped from entering the buildings, Rahimi added.

But according to the claims of eyewitnesses two protestors were killed in the clash between police and protestors, something that was not confirmed by the police.

"We have started investigations to arrest the protestors who turned the protests into violence and began shooting at the police forces," Rahimi said.

The protestors called on western leaders to stop such outlets from playing with the sentiments of the people.

At least 12 people including the cartoonists were killed in a gun attack on Charlie Hebdo's satirical magazine in Paris after the magazine published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.

32 Insurgents Killed in Afghan Raids

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 06:28

At least 32 insurgents were killed during a nationwide operation led by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said in a statement on Saturday.

Eleven other insurgents were injured and 12 others arrested during the operations.

The operations were conducted in Laghman, Kunduz, Faryab, Uruzgan, Paktika and Helmand provinces, the statement said.

"During the same 24 hour period, Afghan National Police discovered and defused 13 different types of IEDs placed by enemies of Afghanistan for destructive activities in Nangarhar and Kandahar provinces," the statement noted.

The statement, however, did not provide details of possible ANSF casualties.

TAWDE KHABARE: Provincial Councils Members Protest Over Rights of Monitoring

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 05:37

On Wednesday, the Wolesi Jirga approved a number of amendments to four articles of the election law, one being that the provincial council members are banned from monitoring governmental institutions.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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After this, a number of provincial council offices' doors have been closed and members gathered in Kabul City on Friday protesting over recent moves of the Wolesi Jirga.

In this episode of the program, host Zabi Sadaat discusses the topic with the following guests:

• Massouda Karokhi, MP
• Abdul Ghayour Ghayour, head of the lawyers union
• Taj Mohammad Mangal, member of Paktia's provincial council
• Gulalai Akbari, Senator

KANKASH: NAI Asks Ghani to Send Media Law to Supreme Court for Investigations

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 05:16

NAI—an NGO supporting open media in Afghanistan-- has asked President Ashraf Ghani to not approve the media law and send it to the Supreme Court for investigations.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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NAI said that the Parliament has approved the law against the constitution.

In this episode of the program, host Fawad Aman discusses the topic with the following guests:

• Fahim Dashti, journalist
• Abdul Majeed Khalwatgar, head of NAI
• Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, member of the Higher Education Commission of the Parliament

Gunman Who Killed 3 Americans Was Said to Wear Afghan Military Uniform

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 05:00
The attacker who killed three military contractors at the airport in Kabul is believed to have been a member of the security forces, official said.

PURSO PAL: Exclusive Interview with Sareer Ahmad Barmak

TOLO News - Sat, 01/31/2015 - 03:27

In this episode of Purso Pal, host Haris Jamalzada interviews the Independent Election Commission's (IEC) commissioner Sareer Ahmad Barmak about the reformation in the IEC.

To watch the entire interview, click here:

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What We're Reading

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 22:11
Get recommendations from New York Times reporters and editors, highlighting great stories from around the web. Today, great reads from Clifford Levy, Jenna Wortham and others.

TOLOnews 6pm News 30 January 2015

TOLO News - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 15:05

Top news in this bulletin

Agreeing the need for reforms in the country's electoral system, an Afghan election commissioner warns no entity or group from outside the Independent Election Commission (IEC) was allowed to bring reforms in the election system.

To watch the whole bulletin, click here:

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In an interview with TOLOnews, IEC commissioner Sareer Ahmad Barmak declared that nobody including the President could fire the IEC head and commissioners unless they prove the crimes of IEC officials.

The relatives of the family that lost its five members as a result of an attack by armed men have linked the murders to the old enmity.

The incident happened Thursday night in Qaricha village of district Bagram when the armed attackers opened indiscriminate fire on the six-member family, leaving five of them dead including the father, mother, two sisters and a son.

New Survey Says 75 Percent of Afghans Doubt Election Commissions' Independence

TOLO News - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 14:08

In new survey conducted by civil society group "Rawand 3 Afghanistan" (Afghanistan 3rd Trend), 75 percent of respondents reported not trusting that the national election commission can act independently, which could provide fuel for the cause of some both inside and outside the government who have pushed for reform before this year's parliamentary elections.

The survey, which involved 2,571 respondents, also showed that 60 percent of Afghans oppose the current election commission officials - who oversaw the troubled 2014 election process - remaining in their posts.

Raiwand 3 spokesmen said the majority of respondents voiced concerns about possible vote rigging in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Of the 2,571 respondents, 910 said they would not take part in the elections.

"Eight hundred and fourteen people in the survey expressed doubt in the capacity of the electoral commissions and another 1,843 of the respondents, which makes 72 percent of all respondents, expressed dissatisfaction over the past performance of the electoral bodies," Rawand 3 representative Shah Aqa Kapisayee said on Friday.

Discussing the methodology of the survey, Rishad Huwaida, another member of Raiwand 3, emphasized the diversity of respondents. "Thirty percent of our respondents constitute women, which is a point of pride, because despite major problems, the women showed a readiness to participate in the survey," Huwaida said. "Seventy percent of the respondents are males and 75 percent of them are educated and the remaining portion are illiterate."

The survey also questioned respondents about their opinions on the Afghan political system and ideas that have been promoted as potential reform strategies recently. "In the survey we asked public opinion about changing the presidential system to a parliamentary one; 1,801, which makes 47 percent of the interviewees, responded positive to the issue, but 1,349 of them, making up 53 percent of the total, showed opposition," Rawand 3 member Eltaf yousufi said.

Finally, 39 percent of respondents reportedly identified security as the top government priority in their minds, while another 26 percent have stressed on the removal of administrative corruption. Twenty four percent say rule of law is the top priority, while just nine percent said job creation.

According to Raiwand 3, the survey results will be forwarded on to the Presidential Palace, the office of Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah as well as the United Nations in hopes that they will consider its findings in decision making.

Neighbors Dumping Policy Threatening Domestic Industries: AIA

TOLO News - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 13:32

Afghanistan's Industrial Association (AIA) complains the dumping policies of neighboring countries still persist which have caused recession of nearly 1,000 domestic industries out of 3,000 industries previously active throughout the country.

The AIA officials warned Friday that the country's industries are in the worst situation as there is no strong will of the government to prevent import of goods similar to domestic products.

The neighboring countries are providing their industries with up to 25 percent subsidy which withholds the Afghan domestic products to compete with the similar goods imported from these countries, AIA head Sherbaz Kaminzada said.

"Right now you cannot find any industry which will be able to operate more than three hours in a day," Kaminzada said. "Our industries are currently unable to have a good use of the available workforce."

Because of the negligence of the government, he complained the domestic industries have failed so far to compete with foreign industries.

The election issues, withdrawal of foreign troops, dumping polices of neighbors and absence of government will for the growth of domestic industries are said to be among main reasons behind closure of about 1,000 industries.

The MPs blame the issue on the government, saying there has been no comprehensive policy for the growth of domestic industries and enterprises.

"We want the government, especially the President to have a serious plan to help the growth of industries to get rid of economic crises," MP Obaidullah Barakzai said.

It said that nearly $14 billion have been invested in industrial sector over the past 12 years; however a large part of these investments have been flown from the country as the capital flight is still on the rise following the uncertain future of the country.

Electoral Reform Proposed from Outside IEC not Acceptable: Barmak

TOLO News - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 12:51

Agreeing the need for reforms in the country's electoral system, an Afghan election commissioner warns no entity or group from outside the Independent Election Commission (IEC) was allowed to bring reforms in the election system.

In an interview with TOLOnews, IEC commissioner Sareer Ahmad Barmak declared that nobody including the President could fire the IEC head and commissioners unless they prove the crimes of IEC officials.

These statements are expressed as the move to bring reforms in the IEC structure and the electoral system has been intensified by the Parliamentarians, civil society and election monitoring groups, demanding a big reshuffle in the IEC whose officials were accused of paving grounds for alleged frauds took place in the recent Presidential Election.

After taking oath as the leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG) which came into being as a result of six-month long elections, President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah promised to bring widespread reform in the electoral system in order to prevent reoccurrence of crises in the future elections.

However, Barmak claimed the government was facing a deadlock on how to bring these reforms.

"Reforms are required both in the electoral system and the structure of election commission," Barmak said. "Some personal reforms are also being proposed from outside which is intolerable for us."

He warned if the coming Parliamentary election is held with the same system, a new wave of crises will likely begin in the country.

Strongly criticizing the government for not fulfilling their camping promises, a number of election experts and analysts call on the government to not hold the Parliamentary elections unless the electoral system is reformed.

"There is no serious will to bring reforms in the electoral system," analyst Zelgai Sajjad said. "The election commission officials try to retain their seats."

He warned that without reforms, neither the people would participate in the elections nor they would trust in it.

At least 14 Killed in Pakistan Shiite Mosque Bombing: Officials

TOLO News - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 10:07

At least 14 people were killed and over 40 injured in a powerful bomb attack at a minority Shia mosque in Pakistan's Sindh province during the weekly Friday prayers, police said.

The bomb exploded as worshippers attended Friday prayers in the town of Shikarpur in Sindh province, around 470 kilometres (300 miles) north of Karachi. Details of the attack were not immediately known but private media said it could be suicide bombing.

Sindh health minister Jam Mehtab said that 14 people were killed and over 40 others were injured in the attack during the Friday prayers.

SSP Shikarpur Saqib Ismail Memon confirmed the attack and said around 40 people were injured.

Several injured were said to be in a critical condition. The blast is the latest in a rising tide of sectarian violence blighting Pakistan.

It is the bloodiest single sectarian attack in Pakistan since January 22 last year, when 24 Shiite pilgrims returning from Iran were killed when their bus was bombed in southwestern Baluchistan province.

Friday's attack came as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, to discuss the law and order situation in the city. Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city and economic heartbeat has wrestled for several years with a bloody wave of criminal, sectarian and politician murders.

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