TOLO News

Preliminary Results Delay Will Impact Final Results: ECC

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 15:10

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Wednesday said the decision to delay announcing the preliminary results of the presidential election would impact the work of the ECC and ultimately when final results can be announced.

The preliminary results delay was announced by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Tuesday night. According to officials, there will be a third partial result announcement on Thursday, and then the preliminary results will be announced on Saturday.

"The delay in announcing preliminary results will make us start our work with a one or two day delay, this will impact the initial timetable of the elections," ECC spokesman Nadir Mohseni said on Wednesday. "Again, I want to stress that what was important for us is the transparency and fairness of the elections."

The ECC was scheduled to start a twenty days complaints investigation process once the preliminary results are announced, but that has now been pushed back two days.

The ECC was initially expected to dispatch the outcomes of its investigations to the IEC on May 8, for a final announcement of election results to be made by May 14, but now it is likely that will all be delayed a few days.

The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), one of the country's largest election monitoring groups, has called on the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to explain exactly why the delay has occurred.

"People deserve to have access to adequate information, if they get access to information, I am confident that people will not have a problem with the two day delay," FEFA chief Nadir Naderi said.

In response, IEC Commissioner Sarir Ahamd Barmak said that the delay was only intended to better ensure the transparency of the elections and that there was no political motive behind the move. He said vote recounting and fraud investigations were taking longer than expected.

Former IEC chief Fazel Ahmad Manavi confirmed that the recounting process was as time-demanding as it was meticulous, and would only be good for the elections.

"The election commission is trying to separate fake and valid votes, this is part of IEC's responsibilities, but more responsibility should be on the shoulders of the ECC," Manavi added.

In a press release on Wednesday, the United Nations' special envoy for Afghanistan, Yan Kubis, expressed confidence in the efforts of the election commissions and said he hoped that process continues to be as transparent and credible as it has been. He also added that he hopes the needs of observers and candidates are met.

ECC Voids 74 Polling Centers, Prepares for Open Review

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 14:58



With the provincial complaints investigation process coming to a close, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Wednesday said that votes from 74 polling have been voided.

ECC spokesman Nadir Mohseni said the completion of the provincial investigation process marked just the first stage in the commission's efforts to get to the bottom of all the complaints it has received. The ECC has issued 1,311 decisions since Election Day, after which it was said to have received over 3,000 complaints.

"Considering that these inspections and decisions are appealable [by candidates], so far the voided votes from 74 centers were not included in the IEC results," Mohseni told TOLOnews on Wednesday.

The ECC's open investigation process will begin at its headquarters in Kabul a day after the preliminary results of the presidential election are announced by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC). However, the final results of the investigations, which are not expected to be established until May 8, will be confidential and can only be made public by the IEC.

The IEC was forced to push back its announcement of preliminary results to Saturday, two days later than originally planned, because the recounting and vote verification processes were taking so long. ECC officials said on Wednesday that the IEC's delay could cause further delay in the complaints investigations.

ECC officials said that 920 Grade A complaints - directly pertaining to election results - have been investigated.

The ECC has received 38 appeals by candidates regarding decisions to invalidate certain votes. Complaints and appeals are allowed to be submitted to the ECC up until just 24 hours after the preliminary results announcement.

Candidates have emphasized the importance of fair treatment from the election commissions.

"The candidates, the people and civil society expect ECC to perform its jobs fairly and transparently, it should be according to the law, and if this is the case, everyone will accept the results," Abdullah Abdullah's campaign representative Sayed Aqa Fazl Sancharaki said.

Hamidullah Farooqi, a member of Ashraf Ghani's team, said the twenty days of investigation by the ECC should effectively separate clean votes from fraudulent ones.

Partial result announcements made by the IEC so far have put Abdullah in the lead, with Ashraf Ghani not far behind. Although no one has received a majority of votes yet, most experts went into the election expecting a runoff round between the two men.

Ashraf Ghani and his supporters have raised a good deal of concern about the sifting of votes, and whether or not corrupted results were being mistakenly included in the partial figures.

TOLOnews 6pm News 23 April 2014

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 14:41

Top news in this Bulletin:

The Lower House has formally summoned Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) Governor Noorullah Delawari to appear before MPs for questioning after he failed to appear on Wednesday for a more informal meeting to discuss concerns with his bank.

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Representatives in the Lower House said they had intended to ask Delawari about employee appointment practices and his unexplained absences from Financial and Budget Committee meetings.

Parliament Summons Central Bank Governor

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 14:24

The Lower House has formally summoned Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) Governor Noorullah Delawari to appear before MPs for questioning after he failed to appear on Wednesday for a more informal meeting to discuss concerns with his bank.

Representatives in the Lower House said they had intended to ask Delawari about employee appointment practices and his unexplained absences from Financial and Budget Committee meetings.

Lower House Chair Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi called on his chamber Wednesday to summon Delawari formally after he failed to appear for questioning when asked.

"Today, the Central Bank Governor's absence was against the Constitution...we must act in accordance with the law," Ibrahimi added.

It is still unclear when exactly Delawari will be summoned for, but MPs said the next few day. It is likely a vote of confidence will be taken.

In order to summon Delawari, 57 MPs gave positive votes on Wednesday. Of the 249 members of the Afghan Parliament, to summon a government official, 20 percent must vote in the affirmative.

Delawari is currently outside Afghanistan and was unavailable for comment.

A number of MPs were highly critical of the central bank head on Wednesday.

"DAB's actions are not in the interest of Afghanistan, plus he is old and he cannot work properly," Herat MP Munawar Shah Bahador said.

Ghazni MP Aref Rahmani adds that the Governor is not capable of performing his duties. 

"The central bank Governor does not have the necessary physical or psychological capabilities, and he has many problems in banking...the House must take serious action," Rahmani said.

According to the Afghan Constitution, if a government official does not appear for a summoned meeting at Parliament, MPs can hold a vote of confidence in his/her absence.

Tajikistan's Volleyball Team Arrives in Kabul

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 14:00

 

Polytechnic University of Dushanbe Volleyball Team arrived in Kabul to participate in four friendly matches with Afghanistan's National Volleyball Team.

The first match is scheduled to be held at Afghanistan's National Sports and Olympic Committee hall on Thursday, April 24.

According to the Deputy of Afghanistan Volleyball Federation, Mohammad Aref Paiman, these matches will have positive effects on the morale of the volleyball team. Paiman added that the matches will be held in other countries also.

Tajikistan's team has also expressed excitement about the approaching matches.

"I am happy to be in Afghanistan and hold these friendly matches," Tajikistan's team coach Mozafar Sanawbar said. "We have been preparing for two months and look forward to having great matches with the Afghan National Team."

Furthermore, according to the Captain of Dushanbe Polytechnic University Team, Moheb Lotyouf, such matches can improve Kabul-Dushanbe relations.
The Dushanbe Volleyball team was invited to Kabul by the Afghanistan Volleyball Federation.

Afghan Pankration Athletes to Participate in Asian Competition

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 13:44




Afghan pankration athletes departed on Wednesday for Kazakhstan to participate in the Asian pankration competition that begins on April 25.

Ajab Noor Sayar, head of the Pankration Federation of Afghanistan, said the team is ready to showcase their skills in the competition.

"Our boys are completely ready, however, there are many great Pankration teams that we will be up against," Sayar said. "But we have taken necessary the preparations and hope to return to the country triumphant."

Pankration athlete, Safi Kohistani, who won a gold medal at last year's competition, says he is confident in being victorious at this year's competition.

"I won gold medal in last year's competition and this time I am enthusiastic to win the Asian gold medal," Kohistani said. "My opponent this year is from Azerbaijan. I am determined to defeat him."

The Afghan pankration squad consists of five athletes, coach and supervisor.

Pankration became a part of Afghanistan's Olympic Committee in 2001. Since then the Afghan pankration athletes have won 11 gold, bronze and silver medals from the Asian and international events.

Pankration is a sport that was introduced in ancient Greece that has become a famous sport among men and women around the world.

Pankration, which literary means 'all power', is a combination of wrestling and boxing. It is considered a dangerous sport because everything is allowed except biting and gouging out the opponents eye.

International Earth Day: Pollution in the Nation's Capital

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 08:31

On April 22, International Earth Day, as people around the world show appreciation for their planet, it would seem fitting to take stock of the condition of Afghanistan's natural environment.

Across Afghanistan, but especially in urban centers like Kabul, pollution and degradation of the natural environment are issues of growing importance. Experts have pointed to population inflation, water management and outdated vehicles as major causes.

Mehrullah is a resident of Kabul and told TOLOnews about the environmental issues that are becoming a growing concern for her in everyday life.

"Illness has increased, we usually go to the doctor or pharmacist twice a week or more, because pollution causes asthma and respiratory diseases, we also get sore throats," Mehrullah said.

Mukhtar Ahmad, another resident of Kabul, is also concerned about environmental and public health conditions in the capital.

"Pollution has increased in Kabul, many factories that are supposed to be outside the city are inside," he said. "Look at the public sauna, and roads are unpaved.

Kabul produces 100 cubic meters of garbage daily, which can be seen littering roads or collected in massive urban landfills. Much of it is caused by the lack of public waste disposal facilities in the city as well as residents willingness to discard their trash virtually anywhere.

Another major concern for many residents of the capital is the lack of proper sewage and draining systems. Flooding is common when it rains and open sewage makes it easier for airborne bacteria to travel.

Kazem Hamayoon, an environmental analyst and Director at the Ministry of Environment, said the importing of low quality fuel was a big cause of air pollution in Kabul and other major cities.

"When we talk about pollution, it starts with an individual who must know his responsibility, for which, we must increase awareness," Hamayoon added.

"We will not have clear air unless we include the environment as part of our economic and social policy plans."

FARAKHBAR: 22 April 2014

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 08:05

Former Taliban leader Mutasem Agha Jan who was reportedly brought to Kabul on Saturday after being detained in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under murky circumstances, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council (AHPC) said. There is no official statement out yet detailing the transfer of Mutasem.

To watch the program, click here:

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Mutasem is part of a last ditch effort by the Hamid Karzai administration to get peace talks on track before Afghanistan's new president is elected.

Mutasem went missing in the UAE early last week, while there to meet with members of the HPC. Although Afghan officials claimed he had been arrested by the UAE, Abu Dhabi did not acknowledge that to be true.

With Mutasem now in Kabul, it is likely he will be milked for all he is worth, being one of the few former Taliban elite who have shown a consistent and concerted interest in peace talks.

Mutasem was injured in an attack in August of 2011 in Karachi, Pakistan. Mutasem received treatment in Turkey where he moved permanently. He also spent time in Dubai.

To read the article, click here.

In this episode of Farakhbar host, Yama Siawash discusses the issue with the following guests:

Amanullah Paiman, MP

Ahmad Sayede, political analyst

ELECTION DAY 2014: Electoral Complaints

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 08:01

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Muslim Sherzad addresses how the Electoral Complaints Commissions and other election commissions have approached the counting of votes with the following guests:

Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, IEC secretariat chief

Nadir Muhsini, IEC commissioner

Abas Noyan, Dr. Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai campaign member

Abdul Satar Murad, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah campaign member

To watch the program, click here:

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TAKANI: Voting Results

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:38

More than 97 percent of the votes have been recorded at the result collection center.

IEC spokesman says efforts are ongoing to announce preliminary results on Thursday.

Host, Zabiullah Sadat discusses the issue with the following guests:

Ghazi Nawaz Tanai, the head of the Afghan Tribal Solidarity (ATS)

Qamaruddin Shinwari, President of Eastern Social Council

Sher Khosti, former Ghazni governor

To watch the program, click here:

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Kerry Tells Russia of 'Deep Concern' Over Ukraine: Official

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 05:50

US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of his "deep concern" Tuesday over Moscow's failure to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine, a senior State Department official said.

Kerry also warned that a lack of Russian progress on a deal struck in Geneva last week would lead to more sanctions, the official added.

The latest flurry of US diplomacy came as Ukraine relaunched military operations against pro-Kremlin separatists, while Russia already has tens of thousands of its troops massed on Ukraine's eastern border.

Those moves underscored the severity of the crisis that has brought East-West relations to their most perilous point since the end of the Cold War.

In a phone call to Lavrov, Kerry "expressed deep concern over the lack of positive Russian steps to de-escalate, cited mounting evidence that separatists continue to increase the number of buildings under occupation and take journalists and other civilians captive," the senior official said.

"He urged Russia to tone down escalatory rhetoric, engage diplomatically in the east with the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) and Ukrainian government, and issue public statements calling for those occupying buildings to disarm and stand down in exchange for amnesty."

The official added that Kerry "also reiterated that the absence of measurable progress on implementing the Geneva agreement will result in increased sanctions on Russia."

The top US diplomat also spoke with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and praised the "important steps" the interim government in Kiev has taken to quell tensions.

UPDATE: IEC Delays Preliminary Results to Saturday

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 17:25

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) stated in a press release Tuesday night that they have delayed the announcement of preliminary results to Saturday April 26, 2014. Instead a third partial result will be shared on Thursday.

The press release states, that the delay is only for a short period of time allowing the IEC to thoroughly assess the ballots to provide an accurate and credible result that will impact the final outcome.

According to the IEC Secretariat Chief, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, the IEC is committed in protecting the votes and results, as promised to the public, with utmost honesty.

Preliminary results are scheduled to be released on Saturday April 26, 2014.

IEC was scheduled to release preliminary results on Thursday April 24, 2014.

IEC: A Likely Delay in Preliminary Results

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 16:59

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Monday reported that efforts were underway to announce the preliminary results of the presidential elections as scheduled. However, the IEC stated that recounting in some provinces are taking time hence the possible delay in the announcement.

On Tuesday, IEC Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told reporters that roughly 97 percent of the results sheets have been audited.

"98.37 percent of the result sheets have been audited and entered into our system," Noor said. "85.62 percent of that has been archived; archiving is the last process."

Noor stated that votes from 789 polling centers that need to be recounted, only 557 of it have been completed with work still remaining to be completed.

"We are trying to announce the preliminary results according to the schedule," Noor said. "Again I want to stress that the IEC realizes that the polling sites and/or centers need to be recounted and assessed thoroughly, but it's a bit time consuming. Although, I can confirm that we have received many achievements with the possibility of preliminary results being announced on Thursday."

More than seven million people have casted votes in the elections. The IEC has only announced 50 percent thus far.

TOLOnews 6pm News 22 April 2014

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 16:07

Top news in this Bulletin:

Amnesty International released a list of recommendations for Afghanistan's next president on their website Monday evening addressing the basic human rights of the country.

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In the recommendation to the future president, Amnesty International asks that he support human rights by implementing international treaties to bring justice to the nation.

Election Observers Question Commission Over Voided Votes

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:58

Afghan and international election observers on Tuesday raised concerns about the manner in which votes were being ruled invalid and discarded by election officials, also noting the drop off in monitoring discretion they have been afforded since polls closed on April 5.

At a gathering held in Kabul, representatives of Democracy International (DI) explained their qualms with the methods used by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) for vote counting and complaints investigations.

DI Executive Director Zekirya Barakzai spoke at the event on Tuesday, and emphasized that invalidating the votes solely based on assessments of result sheets was contrary to the national election laws.

"Looking at a result sheet form and issuing a decision is in contradiction to the election law, and some votes have already been invalidated," Barakzai said. "If we study the election law accurately, the election commission is allowed to invalidate votes when the investigations have been completed and not just by looking at a form."

Democracy International initially assigned at least 500 observers to monitor the election process, though many left the country in the lead up to the vote in early April due to a wave of Taliban violence.

According to election officials, all result sheets will be invalidated that do not contain signatures from observers or proper IEC stamping.

IEC Deputy Chair Abdul Rahman Hotaki on Tuesday maintained that all efforts made by the commissions have been legal and transparent. He said that the result sheet invalidations were based on a decision made by the IEC.

"The Chairman of the commission decided to invalidate some of the ballot papers that were without signatures or stamps."

But Afghan civil society groups for the last week have complained about not being allowed to observe key stages in the vote counting and complaint investigation processes.

Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) head Naeem Ayoubzada has said that the ECC invalidates the votes of hundred polling centers hastily and all in the absence of observers.

Despite having been overwhelmingly positive about the way Election Day went earlier in April, Afghan observers have become the hardest critics of the national election commissions and their handling of the not insignificant amount of fraud that appears to have taken place.

According to the IEC, 1,486 sites have been investigated, and votes from 606 suspicious sites have been recounted as well as those where more than 600 ballots were used.

The election commission said that it intends to announce another partial results before the preliminary results are to be released. Preliminary results were originally scheduled to go public by April 24, but with the workload election officials face, that date could be pushed back.

Election Observers Question Commission Over Voided Votes

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:58

Afghan and international election observers on Tuesday raised concerns about the manner in which votes were being ruled invalid and discarded by election officials, also noting the drop off in monitoring discretion they have been afforded since polls closed on April 5.

At a gathering held in Kabul, representatives of Democracy International (DI) explained their qualms with the methods used by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) for vote counting and complaints investigations.

DI Executive Director Zekirya Barakzai spoke at the event on Tuesday, and emphasized that invalidating the votes solely based on assessments of result sheets was contrary to the national election laws.

"Looking at a result sheet form and issuing a decision is in contradiction to the election law, and some votes have already been invalidated," Barakzai said. "If we study the election law accurately, the election commission is allowed to invalidate votes when the investigations have been completed and not just by looking at a form."

Democracy International initially assigned at least 500 observers to monitor the election process, though many left the country in the lead up to the vote in early April due to a wave of Taliban violence.

According to election officials, all result sheets will be invalidated that do not contain signatures from observers or proper IEC stamping.

IEC Deputy Chair Abdul Rahman Hotaki on Tuesday maintained that all efforts made by the commissions have been legal and transparent. He said that the result sheet invalidations were based on a decision made by the IEC.

"The Chairman of the commission decided to invalidate some of the ballot papers that were without signatures or stamps."

But Afghan civil society groups for the last week have complained about not being allowed to observe key stages in the vote counting and complaint investigation processes.

Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) head Naeem Ayoubzada has said that the ECC invalidates the votes of hundred polling centers hastily and all in the absence of observers.

Despite having been overwhelmingly positive about the way Election Day went earlier in April, Afghan observers have become the hardest critics of the national election commissions and their handling of the not insignificant amount of fraud that appears to have taken place.

According to the IEC, 1,486 sites have been investigated, and votes from 606 suspicious sites have been recounted as well as those where more than 600 ballots were used.

The election commission said that it intends to announce another partial results before the preliminary results are to be released. Preliminary results were originally scheduled to go public by April 24, but with the workload election officials face, that date could be pushed back.

Release of Afghan Deputy Minister a Failed Operation

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:40

On Tuesday, Kabul Special Forces launched an operation in Deh Sabz district of Kabul to release the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Waheed, from the kidnappers who abducted him last Tuesday, but the operation was unsuccessful.

An Afghan police officer was injured during the gunfire battle between the police force and kidnappers. Afghan police officer was shot twice in the leg.

Kabul Police Chief Gen. Zahir Zahir, who led the failed operation, told TOLOnews that before the operation launched residents of Deh Sabz cooperated with the investigation by providing leads to Minister Waheed. Though, before the police force could arrest the kidnappers they had already escaped the premises with the minister in midst of the clash.

"The kidnappers were informed that we detained Fawad, a man who was providing food for the suspects," Zahir said. "Unsuitable land, ups and downs and water-filled holes of Deh Sabz district paved the way for them to runaway."

Deh Sabz is a location known for kidnapping; it's located in northeastern Kabul. Gen. Zahir said that 15 kidnapping cases were filed from this district.

Minister Waheed was kidnapped by four unknown gunmen last Tuesday morning while he had just entered his vehicle in Khair Khana area of Kabul city.

People Ask Candidates to Accept Election Outcome

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:17

As the Independent Election Commission (IEC) heads closer to announcing the final results, the public expect their demands be honored after the final announcement is made on May 14.

Few kilometers away from Kabul, residents of Kalakan district express their satisfactions about Election Day stating that a bright future may be in store.

"We voted in the elections and will accept the outcomes of our votes," school teacher, Saleh Mohammad said. "Whoever wins the election, is acceptable for us and should be acceptable to the candidates as well."

Shoemaker Sher Alam who works alongside the road, said that he was tired of the instability of the country and wants to see what the next president has in store.

"30 years of war did not make us wealthy nor cure our pain," he said. "We voted and our votes must be respected. We will respect whatever the results may be."

This comes at a time where a number of presidential candidates have shown disagreements with the announcement of partial results. Of the eight contenders the two leading candidates have said that they will accept the outcome on the basis of the law and fulfilling the dreams of the people.

Based on the IEC schedule, the preliminary results will be announced Thursday with final results to be released on May 14.

Shaheen Asmayee Holds Trial Tournament in Kabul

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 14:44

Shaheen Asmayee, Kabul's team in the Roshan Afghan Premier League (APL) and the winner of last year's championship, has sponsored a tournament between the capital's top local teams this week to determine what players will be on the APL team this season.

The tournament kicked-off on Monday with two matches held in Ghazni stadium. The competition is intended to identify the 26 best footballers from the hundreds who play for Kabul's 14 top local teams. Those 26 will get the chance to play for Shaheen Asmayee in this year's APL, which now going into its third season, is considered to be the top professional football league in Afghanistan.

The first round of matches on Monday saw Sherdarwaza defeat Taq-e-Zafar 2-0 and Bala Hissar tie Sherpoor 1-1. On Tuesday, Taq-e-Zafar will go against Bala Hissar and Sherdarwaza will face Sherpoor.

"This year our best new talent from four teams of the Kabul football league are in the tournament and I hope the football federation's technical staff identify and invite them to Shaheen Asmayee so we can keep the championship in Kabul," former Shaheen Asmayee goalkeeper Hamidullah Yousofzai said.

Shaheen Asmayee proved the best of the APL's eight teams last year when it defeated the league's inaugural season champions Toofan Harirod in the semi-finals and then Simorgh Alborz in finals.

Yousef Kargar, the coach of the Afghan National Football Team, has said the APL itself has proven a useful feeder program for the national squad.

"Just as the Roshan Afghan Premier League had a key role in the National Football Team's achievements abroad, this year, we also hope that talent is identified and selected so we have a strong national team in the future," Kargar said.

The APL's third season will begin in late August at Ghazi stadium after the teams representing the various region of the country are formed. Shaheen Asmayee plays for greater Kabul; Toofan Harirod plays for the west; Da Abasin Sape represents the southeast; Simorgh Alborz plays for the north; De Spinghar Bazan the east; Mawjhai Amu the northeast; Oqaban Hindukosh in the centre (north of Kabul); and De Maiwand Atalan represents the southwest.

Mr. Kargar said a competition to select top players for the 26-man De Spinghar Bazan team would be held next week. Among the squads competing, a team of Afghan refugees in Pakistan will be included and play in a match in Nangarhar province.

Mr. Kargar noted that financial resources had been provided by the Afghan government to outfit the Ghazi stadium with night lights, which will allow APL games to be played at night for the first time.

Shaheen Asmayee Holds Trial Tournament in Kabul

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 14:44

Shaheen Asmayee, Kabul's team in the Roshan Afghan Premier League (APL) and the winner of last year's championship, has sponsored a tournament between the capital's top local teams this week to determine what players will be on the APL team this season.

The tournament kicked-off on Monday with two matches held in Ghazni stadium. The competition is intended to identify the 26 best footballers from the hundreds who play for Kabul's 14 top local teams. Those 26 will get the chance to play for Shaheen Asmayee in this year's APL, which now going into its third season, is considered to be the top professional football league in Afghanistan.

The first round of matches on Monday saw Sherdarwaza defeat Taq-e-Zafar 2-0 and Bala Hissar tie Sherpoor 1-1. On Tuesday, Taq-e-Zafar will go against Bala Hissar and Sherdarwaza will face Sherpoor.

"This year our best new talent from four teams of the Kabul football league are in the tournament and I hope the football federation's technical staff identify and invite them to Shaheen Asmayee so we can keep the championship in Kabul," former Shaheen Asmayee goalkeeper Hamidullah Yousofzai said.

Shaheen Asmayee proved the best of the APL's eight teams last year when it defeated the league's inaugural season champions Toofan Harirod in the semi-finals and then Simorgh Alborz in finals.

Yousef Kargar, the coach of the Afghan National Football Team, has said the APL itself has proven a useful feeder program for the national squad.

"Just as the Roshan Afghan Premier League had a key role in the National Football Team's achievements abroad, this year, we also hope that talent is identified and selected so we have a strong national team in the future," Kargar said.

The APL's third season will begin in late August at Ghazi stadium after the teams representing the various region of the country are formed. Shaheen Asmayee plays for greater Kabul; Toofan Harirod plays for the west; Da Abasin Sape represents the southeast; Simorgh Alborz plays for the north; De Spinghar Bazan the east; Mawjhai Amu the northeast; Oqaban Hindukosh in the centre (north of Kabul); and De Maiwand Atalan represents the southwest.

Mr. Kargar said a competition to select top players for the 26-man De Spinghar Bazan team would be held next week. Among the squads competing, a team of Afghan refugees in Pakistan will be included and play in a match in Nangarhar province.

Mr. Kargar noted that financial resources had been provided by the Afghan government to outfit the Ghazi stadium with night lights, which will allow APL games to be played at night for the first time.