TOLO News

Helmand Promoted Among Grade A Provinces

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 16:03

President Karzai and the Ministers council have announced that Helmand province has been promoted from a Grade B province to a Grade A province, according to Helmand officials.

Grade A province is a province that will receive greater government support because of the increasingly large population and territory. Other provinces that are a part of the Grade A category include Kandahar, Heart, Balkh, Nangarhar and few others.

Helmand residents celebrated the news with dancing and music held at the Karzai Sport Stadium.

"Becoming a Grade A provinces has its benefits," Governor of Helmand, Muhammad Naeem, said. "There is an increase in the number of representatives at the Parliament and council levels, increase in budget, improvement of education and agriculture."

The Governor adds that the promotion to Grade A has not been completed. They are waiting for the final approval of the House of Representatives, which will be fulfilled soon.

Helmand is located in the southern part of Afghanistan making up 10 percent of the country's land, according to officials.

TOLOnews 6pm News 18 April 2014

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 15:58

Top news in this Bulletin:

Suspicious votes from roughly 1,000 voting centers were recounted and reviewed by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) on Thursday.

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Votes from 457 centers have been recounted while votes from an estimated 400 other centers have been reviewed. IEC officials said after recounting they found a number of votes to be invalid, though the exact number of voided ballots has yet to be determined.

Karzai Confident Candidates Will Respect Election Outcome

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 15:45

In his weekly statement aired by Afghanistan's national media, Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), President Hamid Karzai announced that the April 5 elections not only created history, but will bring positive change to Afghanistan's stability and security situations.

During his talk he urged electoral bodies, specifically the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) that they not only fairly account for results, but announce final results as scheduled.

"The next steps are counting ballots, filing complaints and investigating the complaints," President Karzai said. "The ECC and IEC are working on these and I hope that the final results are announced on time."

He added that the IEC and ECC to abode neutrality and impartiality during the counting and investigation processes so that the public trust is maintained. He added that he admired the massive turnout on Election Day despite threats the people voted for the future of their country. He hopes that the candidates respect the outcome of elections.

In addition, presidential candidates have said that the nation is keeping close eye on the actions of the electoral bodies.

"The election commissions must prove its neutrality, credibility, trust and quality through every step because this is the future of Afghanistan and its people," Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah said. "They must realize their responsibility."

Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai also emphasized on the neutrality of the electoral bodies as the election process begins to wind down.

"We want transparency so that the fundamental principles, which will be executed in Afghanistan for the first time, are maintained if we move on to a runoff in order to prevent frauds and continue our national cooperation in an environment of trust and mutual respect," Ghani said.

The 2014 presidential and provincial council's election is considered a milestone in the political history of Afghanistan because of the unprecedented turnout; the Afghan people defied security threats and intimidation of the Taliban. The election will mark the first democratic transition of political power from one elected president to another.

IEC Recounts and Reviews Suspicious Votes

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 15:45

Suspicious votes from roughly 1,000 voting centers were recounted and reviewed by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) on Thursday.

Votes from 457 centers have been recounted while votes from an estimated 400 other centers have been reviewed. IEC officials said after recounting they found a number of votes to be invalid, though the exact number of voided ballots has yet to be determined.

"IEC's focuses are in three specific areas: recount votes, audit voting centers and void fraudulent ballots," IEC Spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said. "IEC has a specific framework and they are working based on that."

IEC says votes from 600 polling centers that were considered mistrustful by the ECC is also being recounted.
The investigation period ended Thursday with only the review and recounting process ongoing.

"In total, there are 575 centers that were specified by ECC to IEC that needed to be reviewed and recounted," Noor said. "The investigation period was to separate the genuine votes from rigged votes. Now we're in second phase where the votes will be recounted and reviewed. We will be cooperative with the ECC during the recounting and reviewing procedure."

Result sheets that were sent to the IEC headquarters without secure packaging is being reviewed by IEC members.

IEC says that the preliminary results will be announced in the upcoming week tentatively scheduled for April 24.

Writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dead at 87

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 14:28



AFP - Colombia's Nobel-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday in Mexico City at the age of 87, the Colombian president said.

"One thousand years of solitude and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time," Juan Manuel Santos wrote on Twitter.

Garcia Marquez, the author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," passed away at his home with his wife and two sons by his side, Mexico's Televisa anchor Joaquin Lopez-Doriga said on Twitter.

The cause of death was not immediately known but Garcia Marquez spent one week at hospital earlier this month to be treated for pneumonia.

He had been convalescing in his Mexico City home, where he has lived for more than three decades

One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 14:21



Seoul (AFP) - South Korea's coastguard said Wednesday one person had been killed as it struggled to rescue 476 people -- mostly high school students -- aboard a ferry that ran aground and sank off the southern coast.

Lee Gyeong-Og, the vice minister of security and public administration, told a press briefing in Seoul that he could only confirm the rescue of 161 people so far.

However, he added that commercial ships involved in the operation were understood to have rescued a significant number of people.

"The ferry is almost completely submerged," Lee said, adding that a detachment of South Korean Navy SEALS were taking part in the rescue.
Lee had said there were no reports of casualties so far, but the coastguard later said one person had been killed.

"We have recovered one body from the ship so far," a spokesman told AFP.

Photos broadcast on television showed the ship initially tilted over 45 degrees on the port side with helicopters flying overhead, and then fully capsized with only its stern visible.

Of the 450 passengers on board the ferry bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, 325 were students from a high school in Ansan, south of Seoul. The remainder of those on board were crew.

Coastguard officials said the crew sent out a distress signal at 9:00 am (0000 GMT) with passenger testimony suggesting it may have run aground.

The 6,825-tonne ferry, which had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening, ran into trouble some 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the island of Byungpoong.

Distraught parents of the students gathered at the high school in Ansan, desperate for news.

TV footage showed a chaotic scene in the school's auditorium, with parents yelling at school officials and frantically trying to make phone calls to their children.

"I talked to my daughter. She said she had been rescued along with 10 other students," one mother told the YTN news channel.

"They said they had jumped into the water before getting rescued. One was injured in the leg and is being treated in hospital," she said.

Lee Gyeong-Og said 34 naval, coastguard and civilian vessels were involved in the rescue operation, along with 18 helicopters.

In a personal message, President Park Geun-Hye "ordered us to make efforts not to leave a single casualty," he said.

The ferry manifest included 150 cars.

Hundreds of ferries ply the waters between the South Korean mainland and its multiple offshore islands every day, and accidents are relatively rare.

However in one of the worst incidents, nearly 300 people died when a ferry capsized off the western coast in October, 1993.

6:30 REPORT: Afghanistan's Third Presidential Election

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:25

In this week of 6:30 Report, host Anisa Shahid explores the past presidential and provincial councils elections.

To watch the video, click here:

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ELECTION DAY 2014: Electoral Commissions Performance

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:14

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Omid Farooq discussed the electoral commissions performances after Election Day with the following guests:

Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhil, IEC Secretariat

Nader Mohseni, ECC Spokesman

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TAKANI: Diversities of 2014 Elections compared to Past Election

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:11

In this episode of Takani, host Zabiullah Sadat discussed diversities of the April 5 elections with past elections in Afghanistan.

Guests:

Naeem Asghari, Head of Planning in FEFA

Asef Wardak, Freelance Journalist

Hamidullah Hotak, Tribal Elder

Abdullah Poyan, Political Expert

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TOLOnews 6pm News 17 April 2014

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 16:11

Top news in this Bulletin:

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Thursday said that a list of roughly 1,000 polling centers to be investigated in connection with allegations of fraud would be shared with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the votes from those centers would be excluded from the counting process until they are verified.

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ECC officials acknowledged openly that the investigations could impact the election results, which are expected to bring on a runoff vote scheduled for late May.

ANP Officers Kidnapped on Kabul-Kandahar Highway

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:48



While traveling along the Kabul-Kandahar Highway, a group of Afghan National Police (ANP) officers were attacked by insurgents and two of them were taken captive. The Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA) has confirmed that three police officers and one Afghan National Army (ANA) member were killed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said that an operation to free the two soldiers was underway in the Said Abad district of Maidan Wardak province. So far 17 militants have been reportedly killed.

The Kabul-Kandahar highway is one of the most important highways in Afghanistan, with thousands of Afghans using it daily for personal and commercial commutes to over 10 provinces. However, it has also become a hotbed of insurgent violence and organized crime in recent years, making passage dangerous for anyone, let alone security forces.

According to reports, the group of officers were attacked by militants clothed in normal civilian garb in the Pul Surkh area of Maidan Wardak.

Some of those who use the Kabul-Kandahar highway the most, like commercial truck drivers, are understandably the most fearful of the security issues it faces. Last fall, hundreds of truck drivers went on strike demanding that security forces do more to ensure safe passage along the highway.

Since then, new security check posts have been erected along the highway. However, as this week's attack and abductions stand to show, there remains much to be done if the Kabul-Kandahar throughway is to be freed of its perils.

IEC To Announce Preliminary Results Next Week

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:37



The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Thursday said it would announce a large portion of preliminary results from the April 5 election at sometime next week.

With the counting process ongoing, and thousands of votes being pulled out of it for investigations of fraud, the IEC declined to offer any details about what percentage of the results would be used in the preliminary announcement.

"Based on the discussions that we had today, we will be announcing a major percentage of results through the press next week, but it is still unclear what day and what hour; we first need to make sure that our technical unit is ready and IEC members have approved it," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said.

Although the over seven million ballots cast on April 5 began to be counted just hours after polls closed, the IEC has said it is in the process of recounting votes after a number of result sheets appeared tampered with and polling centers were implicated in allegations of rigging.

So far results from 217 centers from 24 out of the 31 provinces expected to recounted have been. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has reportedly asked the IEC to recount votes from over 500 centers have those suspected for fraud have been isolated.

"Cooperation between the two commissions of ECC and IEC is ongoing very well," Noor said on Thursday.

Earlier this week, ECC officials had criticized the IEC for not cooperating with its investigations into the over 3,000 complaints it has received from around the country. Reportedly, well over 1,000 of the complaints filed with the ECC directly implicate IEC employees electoral irregularities.

The number of centers from where result sheets returned without proper packaging or endorsements from observers was not said, and the extent of this problem remains largely unclear. Though the IEC on Thursday said audits of the centers in question were underway.

Pakistani Analysts Want Kabul-Islamabad Restart

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:14

With the next Afghan President on the horizon, a number of prominent Pakistani analysts have publicly encouraged a rapprochement between long-estranged neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Arguably the biggest point of tension between Kabul and Islamabad over the years has been the support the Afghan Taliban and its affiliates have received from the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus. However, in addition to arguing against this strategy on its merits, a number of experts have suggested Pakistan's backing of the Taliban is already in decline.

"It seems that the Afghan Taliban are weakening because the financial aid the group was receiving from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is declining, and the Taliban are now in a weaker position," former Pakistani military officer Mahmood Shah told TOLOnews on Thursday.

The relative success of the April 5 elections in Afghanistan, which saw unexpectedly high turnout and Taliban violence that fell below most predictions, has reportedly contributed to a rising optimism about the future of relations with Pakistan. With a new government in Kabul soon, many hope to turn over a new leaf.

"When Afghanistan is in stable condition, other countries analyze the situation and realize that the proper person will meet the demands of the Afghan people," Pakistani journalist Aqil Yousafzai said.

"Change has come to Pakistan's perspective, particularly in its Afghan policy," political analyst Ismail Khan added.

However, among Afghan analysts, hope for a marked change in the dynamic between Kabul and Islamabad remains guarded at best.

"We appreciate the Pakistani's army idea of not supporting and cooperating with terrorists," Afghan analyst Abbas Nowyan said. "A limited period of time remains for the establishment of a new government in Afghanistan, and we hope that Pakistan undertake practical measures in this sphere before the formation of the new government."

At worst, others were skeptical of any genuine hope for improved relations between Kabul and Islamabad.

"Pakistan has always asserted such things that we [Pakistan] and Afghanistan are the victims of terrorism, but this is a lie," Afghan analyst Mia Gul Wasiq said. "We are the victims of terrorists produced by Pakistan, and those who were trained by Pakistan sometimes turn on them; the assertions are an act by Pakistan, because they want to appear cooperative with the new government in Afghanistan."

In recent weeks, Afghan officials have accused the Pakistani military of targeting Afghan security check posts on Election Day and trying to sabotage the elections.

The Taliban had denounced the voting process, and vowed to derail it with violence in the weeks leading up. But insecurity on Election Day was minimal, which boded well for the Afghan security forces that are assuming oversight around the country as the NATO coalition prepares to withdraw by the end of the year.

ECC: Votes From 1,000 Polling Centers Inspected

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:07



The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Thursday said that a list of roughly 1,000 polling centers to be investigated in connection with allegations of fraud would be shared with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the votes from those centers would be excluded from the counting process until they are verified.

ECC officials acknowledged openly that the investigations could impact the election results, which are expected to bring on a runoff vote scheduled for late May. They also expressed concerns that certain government and non-governmental interests would try to interfere with the investigation process.

"There are up to 1,000 centers whose lists have been seperated, with the only difference that some of the centers will be inspected completely and some of them partially," ECC Deputy Walid Akbar Sarwari said. "We have shared these topics with the election commission and today the IEC has started the process in the presence of our delegation."

According to Sarwari, 50 percent of the investigations have been completed and the next step will be to decide how to handle the findings. The ECC's decisions are expected to be announced publicly.

On Wednesday, the ECC said that there were some 892 complaint cases being investigated that directly pertained to the counting process. The IEC also announced that recounts would soon begin for 31 out of the 34 provinces in light of discoveries made involving fraudulent votes.

"We are seriously concerned about security threats faced by our staff in the provinces and also from the interference of elements that want to meddle in this process," Sarwari said. "We will move forward in a transparent and neutral manner and will not surrender to pressures, but when the pressures are beyond our capacity, we will tell the nation."

The IEC is expected to announced the preliminary results of the presidential election by April 24, and the final results on May 14.

"Politicians are trying to infiltrate inside the commission and its decisions, if the election commission establishes a strong barrier that can prevent infiltration from outsiders - whether it is the government, powerful figures or politicians - this would be their great success," former IEC chief Fazel Ahmad Manavi told TOLOnews.

ECC officials have said that the number of complaints filed has increased, with now 2,122 complaints having been received with evidence. From that number, 1,339 are against IEC staff members, 456 are against presidential candidates and the remaining 527 complaints are targeted at provincial council candidates.

ELECTION DAY 2014: Election Runoff, Coalition and Its Effects on Afghanistan's Future

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:42

In this episode of Entekhabat 93, host Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the election runoff, coalitions and its effects on Afghanistan's future with the following guests:

Daoud Muradyan, Director of Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies

Abdul Ghafoor Lewal, head of Afghanistan's Regional Studies Center

Mujibul Rahman Rahimi, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah's campaign member

Abas Noyan, Dr. Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's campaign member

To watch the program, click here:

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FARAKHABAR: 16 April 2014

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:33

House of representatives want the government to quickly pass the Money Laundering and Prevention of Terrorism Financy Law.

In this episode of Farakhbar host, Enayatullah Mudaris discusses the issue with the following guests:

Ahmad Sayed Quraishe, economic analyst

Idris Rahmani, political analyst

To watch the program, click here:

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TAKANI: Suspicious Votes

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:06

In this episode of Takani host, Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the evaluation of suspicious votes by the IEC and the partial results with the following guests:

Dr Faiz Mohammad Zaland, political analyst

Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, head of TEFA

Hayatullah Hayat, head of the Coordination Center of Civil Society Institutions

Fahim Dashti, journalist and writer

To watch the program, click here:

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TAKANI: Suspicious Votes

In this episode of Takani host, Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the evaluation of suspicious votes by the IEC and the partial results with the following guests:

Dr Faiz Mohammad Zaland, political analyst

Mohammad Naeem Ayoubzada, head of TEFA

Hayatullah Hayat, head of the Coordination Center of Civil Society Institutions

Fahim Dashti, journalist and writer

To watch the program, click here:

TOLOnews 6pm News 16 April 2014

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:10

Top news in this Bulletin:

Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Nadir Mohseni acknowledged Tuesday that complaint investigations could likely impact election results.

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Out of the 1,300 cases being investigated, the ECC said 892 could directly effect election results and were being taken very seriously.

Recounts Begin for 22 Provinces

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:01

With nearly all ballots and result sheets delivered to the central Independent Election Commission (IEC) office in Kabul, a joint IEC and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) recount is expected to begin for 22 provinces.

IEC alluded to transparency and addressing the complaints of election observers and presidential candidates as the reasons behind the recount, the announcement of which comes the same day the ECC stated there were 892 complaint cases that directly impacted votes cast on April 5.

"Recount of votes in 22 provinces officially started today. In total, recount will take place in 31 provinces," IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said on Wednesday.

Mr. Noor said that centers with more than 600 ballots - the standard number distributed to each site - would all be recounted, as per procedure.

Result sheets from nearly 500 centers have been returned to IEC headquarters without proper stamping or endorsements from IEC observers and are under review.

"There were instances where results sheets had no IEC stamp or no signature of center managers or observers. The commission has decided to these results sheets will be re-audited," Noor added.

The IEC had said earlier this week that result sheets without the IEC stamp and signatures from observers would be considered void and would not be counted as part of the preliminary results.

The ECC has reportedly sent information to the IEC intended for isolating corrupted votes from the counting process. However, a significant number of the complaints the ECC has received have been directed at IEC employees.

ECC: 892 Complaints Under Scrutiny, Could Impact Results

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 15:47

Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Nadir Mohseni acknowledged Tuesday that complaint investigations could likely impact election results. Out of the 1,300 cases being investigated, the ECC said 892 could directly effect election results and were being taken very seriously.

Mr. Mohseni said the 892 complaints in question, falling in Category A, would mean isolating ballots from the counting process for verification. The ECC received more than 3,000 complaints following the historic April 5 national election, though more than half have been discarded for lack of evidence.

"We will isolate the invalid votes stuffed in the ballot boxes through rigging so that fake and genuine votes are differentiated, this should have an impact on the elections, but it doesn't mean that the process will be harmed or all the votes declared invalid - this would not happen," Mohseni said.

The ECC is expected to communicate all relevant information regarding its cases to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) so that fraudulent votes can be separated as quickly as possible from the counting process.

"We have identified 516 cases and sent them to the election commission to be taken out, we will isolate 892 cases according to our reports, but we are waiting to receive more details from the provinces, lists must be sent to us so that we can forward them on to the IEC," Mohseni said.

All ballots picked out of the counting process in relation to a complaint will be assessed by a committee formed by the IEC, their work open to media and observers for purposes of transparency.

Of the complaints the ECC has received, reportedly some 1,000 of them implicate IEC employees.

Meanwhile, the IEC has repeatedly restated its commitment to a transparent and fair vote-counting process. On Tuesday in Kabul, IEC officials announced that all result sheets returned without proper packaging, IEC stamping and endorsement signatures from observers would be disqualified.

Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) spokesman Mohammad Fahim Naeemi criticized both electoral commissions for not allowing observers to monitor the vote counting and complaints investigation processes earlier this week.

"The ECC invites the observers only when they receive the complaints, but when they start evaluating, there are no observers."