TOLO News

TOLOnews 6pm News 26 February 2015

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 15:08

Top news in this Bulletin:

In the past two days Afghanistan has faced severe weather that caused avalanches and floods, claiming the lives of more than 220 people and injured more than 100 others, according to officials.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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In the northern part of the country in Panjshir province, rescue operation teams recovered 187 bodies in the avalanche that occurred on Tuesday in the district of Bazarak, the provincial Police Chief Gen. Ghairat Ezat said.

The Afghan National Cricket Team has beaten Scotland by one wicket in its third and sensational match at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 played in Dunedin City of New Zealand.

Tremendous bowling by Shapoor Zadran who took four wickets and Dawlat Zadran who bowled out three batsmen restricted the Scotish team to 210 after the Afghan Captain Mohammad Nabi won the toss and elected to field first.

Herat Police Commander Goes On the Offensive

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 14:48

Herat Police Commander General Abdul Majeed Rozi has begun waging his own uncompromising campaign against militants in his western province, ordering police officers to eliminate threats by any means necessary, and warning them that if they fail to produce concrete results in the coming months, then they will be relieved of their duties.

According to General Rozi, in the past two weeks, at least twenty terrorists were arrested in Herat and their caches of weapons and ammo confiscated.

The Police Commander claimed that the leader of the insurgent cell group, Qari Samiullah, had shot at innocent bystanders while trying to escape from police. After clashing for hours, he was finally apprehended.

General Rozi's new approach is one grounded in the absence of leniency, though he says he hopes militants will simply lay down their weapons and return to normal life. "I want all anti-government armed groups and members to return to a peaceful life, but if they fight against us, we will give them a serious response," he told TOLOnews on Thursday.

So far, it would seem Herat's Police Commander and his new strategy of aggressive tactics has paid off. Last week, a kidnapping ring was busted up and many arrests were made. A man held captive by the criminals was also released.

However, any future success, General Rozi maintains, will only be possible if local residents cooperate and aid the security forces in their efforts to make the province more safe. "My demand of our people is that, in order to bring better security to Herat, they must cooperate with the Afghan National Security Forces, so that we can arrest the enemies of this country," he said.

Over the past three months, Herat has seen a surge of violence, including over 60 gun-deaths in Herat city in just 45 days.

Experts Warn of Potential Threat Posed by Afghan Mullahs Expelled From Pakistan

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 14:32

Afghan mullahs now being forced out of Pakistan by the government in Islamabad could have connections to extremist groups in the region and pose a serious security threat to Afghanistan if they are not properly vetted and monitored upon their return, analysts have said.

The Pakistani government made the decision this week to expel all Afghan mullahs from Pakistan, a decision that comes soon after the move was made to force all Afghan religious students out of Madrassas in Pakistan.

Afghan religious teachers and students residing across the border have long been one of the chief recruiting pools of the Taliban insurgency. Now, it is expected that the bulk of those being forced out of Pakistan will seek to return to Afghanistan.

"They must be checked to see if they are posing a threat, then that threat must be dealt with," Human Rights Organization of Afghanistan Director Lal Gul Lal told TOLOnews. "In addition, a guarantee must be attained from the elders of their tribe and village."

Experts have demanded that the mullahs and students expelled from Pakistan be closely watched by the Afghan government and, in particular, the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Many of the Afghan mullahs in question have been accused of fomenting violent extremism in the tribal belt areas, particularly those in northern Waziristan.

Since a Taliban massacre at a school Peshawar that grabbed international headlines for its devastating death toll of over 100 children, the Pakistani government has taken major symbolic as well as concrete steps to put pressure on militant groups within its borders and better cooperate with Afghanistan on addressing the broader regional threat posed by violent extremists. It was a government-sponsored review of the country's entire religious education sector conducted in the wake of the attack that led to Islamabad's decision to expel the Afghan students and mullahs.

Nevertheless, while on the surface the expulsions looks to be Pakistan trying to clear house and rid itself of undesirables who stoke opposition to the government, Afghan military expert Atiquallah Amarkhail suggests there could be anterior motives.

"Their [the mullahs'] arrival means that they have been supported, they are sent for the upcoming spring," Amarkhail told TOLOnews, referring to the upcoming warm-weather fighting season. "On the one hand, Afghanistan is in discussions with the Taliban, on the other hand, they [the Taliban] are supported for war; its politics, it will give the Taliban a better stand during the discussions."

Spanta, Politicians Express Concerns About Strategy Behind Peace Talks

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 14:16

Former National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta supports Kabul's new initiative to get peace talks with the Taliban on track, but harbors doubts about the honest commitment of Afghanistan's key partner in the process, Pakistan. In an exclusive interview with TOLOnews, Dr. Spanta cautioned the Afghan government about putting too much trust in Pakistan at the expense of relations with India.

The news that peace talks with the Taliban are on the horizon, with U.S. officials reportedly already having met with Taliban representatives in Qatar, has been welcomed by Afghan leaders across the political spectrum. Nevertheless, as information has emerged exposing the extent to which Pakistan has been involved in brokering the talks, a growing concern among some is that Pakistan's motives might be disingenuous. Moreover, others, like Dr. Spanta, have warned that increased cooperation with Pakistan on the threat of the Taliban could cause a cooling of ties with India, which is a rival of Pakistan but also a close ally of Kabul.

In his interview with TOLOnews, Dr. Spanta expressed concerns that the peace process could pressure leaders making dangerous concessions, particularly in the realm of national solidarity, independent and relations with other countries. "Peace has its price, but the price for this peace must not be the achievements of the people of Afghanistan, its independence and national unity," Spanta said.

According to Afghanistan's former top national security official, the only effective way to bring insurgents to the negotiation table is through resistance, not entreaty. He argued those weighing in on the talks are largely uninformed and ill-equipped to handle the task. "Due to not having a good understanding of foreign policy, Afghan politicians have not paid much attention to this issue," Spanta told TOLOnews. "The experiences of other countries have shown that, through an approach of toleration toward the invaders, talks won't get anywhere, but they can be brought to the peace negotiation table through resistance," he said.

Spanta believes the most foolish part of the new peace process has been the burning of bridges with India. "There was no need to harm our relationships with India to this extent," he said. Although it remains unclear just how much ties with India have been strained by the new levels of cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad.

Meanwhile, Afghan politicians Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, Muhammad Ismael Khan and Senate Chairman Fazil Hady Muslimyar have met with President Ashraf Ghani to voice their opinions on the peace talk initiative. "We strictly support peace, but we will announce our stance after the results of the peace talks, whether with Pakistan or the Taliban or another opposition group," Mr. Muslimyar said.

Although news of the likelihood of peace talks was welcomed warmly - if somewhat incredulously - at first, over the past week many Afghan leaders have begun to express concerns or add caveats to that initial hope.

"We want the peace that will prevent Taliban members from turning into Daesh, meaning, we don't want another group to be formed," Mr. Muslimyar said. "We also don't want it to cost our values and the Constitution of Afghanistan."

The Dawat Islami Party, led by Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, has echoed Dr. Spanta and expressed doubts about the loyalty of Pakistan. "Our party is in favor of peace, but we have some comments: Pakistan did not win through war, so we are afraid that they are trying to take advantage of peace now," Dawat Islami member Daud Kalakani told TOLOnews.

One of the primary concerns of experts is that certain compromises might be made by negotiators that reverse progress made since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), for example, has said that peace without justice and without the participation of women will not be peace at all, but rather just a short-term political deal.

"Peace without justice and without respect to human rights and participation of women in the peace is a deal, and a political deal will not result in peace," These short term deals between the two political groups will not resolve the main problems of Afghanistan and will not result in peace," AIHRC Director Seema Samar said.

The news that peace talks were likely in the near future came after Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif's trip to Kabul. Upon leaving Afghanistan, Sharif promised to reach out to senior Taliban leaders, which he did, and urge them to meet with negotiators. The talks are now expected to begin in the first week of March in Qatar.

More Than 200 People Killed in Avalanches and Floods Throughout Country

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 13:18

In the past two days Afghanistan has faced severe weather that caused avalanches and floods, claiming the lives of more than 220 people and injured more than 100 others, according to officials.

In the northern part of the country in Panjshir province, rescue operation teams recovered 187 bodies in the avalanche that occurred on Tuesday in the district of Bazarak, the provincial Police Chief Gen. Ghairat Ezat said.

Qari Aman, a member of the provincial council in Panjshir, said that the avalanche happened so fast it took everyone by surprise.

"The snow was falling very fast and heavily," Aman said. "I've never seen such snowfall like this in the past 60 years of my life. In just a few hours of snow we were unable to reach our neighbors home."

As a result of the rapid snowfall and the avalanche, the district governor of Abdullah Khil said that 35 people were killed in Abdullah Khil alone, three wounded and more than 20 houses destroyed.

President Ashraf Ghani has ordered all responsible organizations to rescue and provide aid for all the affected victims immediately.

The aid agencies responsible for the rescue operations have stressed that the death toll may increase as the avalanches and floods have deterred their chances of reaching the districts in time.

In the past week, provinces throughout Afghanistan—Panjshir, Nuristan, Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kapisa, Nangarhar, and Kabul –have witnessed Mother Nature taking a toll on their lives damaging their homes, wounding and claiming the lives of hundreds.

Afghanistan Imports More than $1 Billion in Medicine, Medical Equipment

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:51

Annually Afghanistan spends more than one billion dollars on medicine and medical equipment to be imported to the country.

According to the Directorate of Pharmaceutical Affairs and official statistics, Afghans spend an average of $400 million worth of medicine on an annual basis, mostly imported from Pakistan and India.

Afghanistan Association of Industries said that if the government had focused its attention and investment in the field of medicine and the production of medicine 13 years ago the country would have not spent half of what they spend outside for medical purposes.

"Unfortunately, in the past 13 years the government has done nothing to invest in the medical arena," Director of Afghanistan Industries Association Sakhi Ahmad Paiman said. "Majority of the medicine imported into the country can be produced in Afghanistan," adding that there is 20 small companies that produce medicine in the country.

Officials at the Directorate of Pharmaceutical Affairs call the lack of government support for pharmacists and the lack of land for factories the main reasons for the fall back in medical production.

"The money that goes abroad for medicines are the same medicines that can be produced in Afghanistan," Abdul Hafeez Quraishi, Gen. Director of the Directorate of Pharmaceutical Affairs at the Ministry of Public Health, said. "Our main problem in Kabul is the absence of industrial parks for medicine production. Medicine cannot be produced in the same area as other companies and factories."

Currently, with over 10,000 pharmaceutical companies, India is among the largest producer of medicine in the world, second being Pakistan and Iran with over 5,000 pharmaceutical companies.

With lack of infrastructure, Afghanistan has been fallen dependent on its neighboring countries for medicine and medical equipment.

Wife Murders Husband in Balkh

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 10:12

A woman killed her husband by cutting his neck with the help of her brother-in-law in the province of Balkh on Wednesday, according to security sources.

Chief of the provincial Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Salahuddin Sultan said the two have been arrested in the murder that took place in Ali Sher Nawai area of Mazar City.

In an attempt to cover up the murder, she had filed an FIR to the police claiming that thieves had broken into her house, stole items and killed her husband.

He suspects that the woman and the brother-in-law had an illegitimate relationship, but the brother of the deceased refused such allegations.

TAWDE KHABARE: UN Prisoners Report

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 08:54

According to a new UN report, prisoners are tortured in 16 different ways during investigations. The report indicates that prisoners jailed by the National Directorate of Security, Afghan National Police, Afghan Local Police, and Afghan National Army are mistreated.

Meanwhile, the Independent Human Rights Commission has announced the lack of awareness in the law among Afghan security forces is the main reason behind the tortures of prisoners.

In this episode of TAWDE KHABARE, host Shahpoor Bakhtiyar discusses the topic with the following guests:

Abul Ehrar Ramzpor, member of UNAMA human rights office in Kabul

Maulavi Abdul Rahman Hotak, AIHRC Officer

Ajmal Hoodman, lawyer

To watch the program, click here:

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GOFTMAN: Evaluating Previous Government's Job With Regard to Afghanistan's Equal Development

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 07:59

Theme of discussion:

Afghanistan gained visible achievements over the past 13 years in various spheres including freedom of press, education, commerce, trade, transit. Despite the improvements made in the country, the villagers still suffer job recessions and the nation is still cursed with the phenomena of opium production and smuggling. Afghanistan still is the largest producer of opium in the world. Besides that, corruption is also an issue that has undermined financial capabilities of the country. The Afghan nationals still constitute as the worlds largest group of refugees in the world.

Guests:

Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, former minister of economy

Wais Ahmad Barmak, former minister of urban development

Jamahir Anwari, former minister of refugees and repatriations

Amna Afzali, former minister of work and labor

To watch the program, click here:

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Afghanistan Marks Maiden ICC World Cup Victory

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 07:16

The Afghan National Cricket Team has beaten Scotland by one wicket in its third and sensational match at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 played in Dunedin City of New Zealand.

Tremendous bowling by Shapoor Zadran who took four wickets and Dawlat Zadran who bowled out three batsmen restricted the Scotish team to 210 after the Afghan Captain Mohammad Nabi won the toss and elected to field first.

Hamid Hassan, Gulbadin Naib and Nabi also took one wicket each, helping the batting side of the team to have a lower target.

The Afghan batsmen completed the target just three balls ahead of the end of the close match after Samiullah Shenwari, the player of the match, smashed 96 runs by hitting 12 boundaries.

"This is our first win in the World Cup," Shenwari said with pride. "Everyone enjoyed this win. There was a lot of pressure and the boys didn't bat well in the middle of the game. We threw away four to five wickets early in the game, but we managed to pull through."

Although, the middle order batsmen failed to make runs, Shenwari stood at the crease until the 47th over to lead the team toward a historic cricket victory.

The second Afghan batsman who played well in the match was the opener Javed Ahmad who scored 51 runs by hitting eight boundaries, all of them fours.

It was Afghanistan's first victory in its three pool matches after the Afghan team was defeated by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Afghanistan will play its next and a tough match against Australia, one of the co-hosts of the mega event, ‎on March 4th.

FARAKHABAR: 25 February 2015

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 05:59

Former Pakistani President-General Pervez Musharraf said that the only alternative that could end Taliban insurgency is their participation in the political system.

In an interview with Wall Street Journal illustrated that President Ashraf Ghani was a big hope and the initiative taken by the newly established government in Kabul has paved a historic opportunity to negotiate with the Taliban and restore peace. Musharraf has confessed that Islamabad was supporting the Taliban and Pakistan and its traditional rival India have been engaged in proxy war in Afghanistan since a long time.

As the relations between Ghani and top Pakistani general get closer, the question that revolves in public mindset is what does Pakistan really want from Afghanistan in exchange of supporting the peace restoration in Afghanistan.

In this episode of FARAKHABAR, host Yama Siavash discusses the topic with the following guests:

Sarwar Jawadi, social affairs advisor to second vice president

Saleh Mohammad Registani, former MP

To watch the program, click here:

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UPDATE: Top NATO Envoy’s Convoy Targeted in Kabul Attack

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 04:36

A suicide bomber targeted vehicles belonging to NATO senior civilian representative on Monday in Kabul, killing a Turkish soldier and an Afghan civilian and injuring another one, security sources said.

The incident occurred around 9am near the Iranian Embassy of Kabul after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car when the convoy of top NATO envoy was passing by the area, said Gen. Ayoub Salangi, senior deputy interior minister.

However, the NATO senior civilian representative, Ismail Aramaz, who was the former Turkish Ambassador to Afghanistan, was not in the car.
The security officials confirmed that the injured one was also a Turkish soldier.

"The suicide bomber was in a corolla type vehicle," Salangi told reporters in the scene. "The driver of the car has been killed and another person aboard was injured."

The interior minister Noor-ul-Haq Ulumi also arrived in the scene after the security forces cordoned-off the area.

According to the eyewitnesses, one of the vehicles of the convoy was totally ablaze.

The Taliban in a statement have claimed responsibility for the attack but stated their objective was the U.S. soldiers.

To watch the footage, click here:

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US, Iran Have 'Mutual Interest' in Defeating Daesh: Kerry

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 04:07

The United States and Iran have a "mutual interest" in defeating the Daesh group but the long-time foes are not cooperating to do so, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday.

"They are totally opposed to Daesh and they are in fact taking on and fighting and eliminating Daesh members along the Iraqi border near Iran and have serious concerns about what that would do to the region," Kerry told lawmakers, referring to Daesh by another acronym.

"So we have at least a mutual interest, if not a cooperative effort."

Kerry, who has been pivotal to Washington's drive to strike a deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, said the United States had not asked Tehran to get involved in the fight against the Daesh group.

Since last year, the Sunni extremist group has waged a brutal offensive in Iraq and Syria, grabbing land and carrying out executions and forced religious conversions.

Washington forged a coalition of Western and Arab nations to confront the extremists, but mainly Shiite Iran is not officially part of the group.

In December, Kerry also denied there was any military coordination with Iran, after the Pentagon said that Iranian jets had deployed against Daesh fighters in eastern Iraq.

Masked Men Who Abducted 30 Hazaras Are Taliban: Security Officials

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:36

According to Afghan security officials, the 30 Hazara passengers who were abducted by masked men on Monday on Kabul-Kandahar highway have been identified as Taliban and have been taken to Khak Afghan district of Zabul province.

On Monday, masked men stopped vehicles traveling on the highway near Zabul, an area the Taliban run, and identified and abducted 30 Hazaras. The hostages have been held captive for more than 48 hours.

Afghan National Army's (ANA) 205 Maiwand Corp Gen. Abdulhamid said that the Taliban do not have the ability to fight face to face, so as a counter act they have been abducting civilians to stir fear in the air.

"Whenever the Taliban cannot confront the security forces they create problems at a civil level harming civilians," Gen. Abdulhamid said. "They are trying to instill worry and fear in the people."

A witness to the abduction, Abrahim told TOLOnews that the armed masked men were speaking in Dari and Pashto questioning the passengers about their prophet.

"They were asking each one of us, 'are you Hazara or Sunni?" he explained. "They were speaking Pashto. The other question asked was 'are you Muslim? Who is your prophet?' The passengers all responded that they are Muslims, but they did not pay any attention to the answer."

Meanwhile, a number of Parliament representatives have said that the passengers are alive and that Zabul tribal elders are putting their efforts in to release the hostages.

"The passengers have not been killed, they are alive," MP Sayed Nader Shah Bahar said. "Zabul elders are working to release the hostages."

Zabul's acting Governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasiri said that the provincial elders are talking to the Taliban in efforts to release the hostages. If talks between the elders and Taliban reach a dead end, Nasiri said that military action will be taken.

Amnesty International Reports Increased Human Rights Abuses in Afghanistan

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:35

Amnesty International has released a new report expressing deep concerns about the state of human rights in Afghanistan. The report indicates that not only were no improvements made in Afghanistan's human rights arena last year, but that violations actually increased around the country.

According to the international human rights watchdog, the deteriorating picture of human rights in Afghanistan is a result of a number of factors. The failure to implement the violence against women bill in Parliament, increased cases of sexual abuse against women, rising rates of child marriage, reduced representation for women on Provincial Councils and the undermining of women's role in the peace negotiation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban were all factors cited.

The Amnesty International report asserts that the security situation has worsened in Afghanistan as the drawdown of foreign troops has pushed on, in part causing the spike in human rights violations. A number of independent organizations, in addition to Amnesty, have confirmed that 2014 was the most deadly year for Afghan civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Sim Samar, the Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), responded to the report by trying to defend Afghanistan's human rights record has relatively better than its neighbors. "Undoubtedly, human rights violations have increased in Afghanistan, but I think this doesn't mean Afghanistan is the worst, because, if you compare Afghanistan with its neighboring countries, we find that the human rights situations are worse in those countries than in Afghanistan," Samar told TOLOnews.

Nevertheless, Samar acknowledged that a pervasive culture of impunity for men and government officials in particular perpetuated Afghanistan's human rights violations. As well, lack of rule of law in many parts of the country was cited as a enabling factor for the rise in violence.

MP Fawzi Kofi, also a member of Parliament's Women's Affairs Commission, responded to the Amnesty report by calling on the government to take concrete steps to curb violence and other violations of human rights. "The government must adopt more coherent steps and undertake clear a strategy in combating violence and bring the people of Afghanistan out of the current situation," Kofi said.

Amnesty International's report covers 160 countires of the world for the year 2014. The report includes Afghanistan as part of the group of countries where Amnesty concluded little action had been taken to curb human rights abuses.

Company Threatens Legal Action Against Ministries With Unpaid Water Bills

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:33

Dad Mohammad Baheer, the head of the Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation (AUWSSC), claimed on Wednesday that, excluding the ministries of defense and education, all government institutions were in debt to the organization for delinquent water bills.

"Except the ministries of defense and education, all government ministries are in debt to the corporation, and if they do not pay their water bills within a few weeks, legal action will be taken against them," Baheer told TOLOnews.

The AUWSSC was originally created by the Afghan government in hopes of developing a better supply water and sanitation services for urban areas across the country. However, since the AUWSSC became corporatized, the government has gone into debt, failing to pay for the water and treatment services it requires for its ministries despite the fact that each one receives funding for water and sanitation purposes that is allocated independently from their ordinary budget.

"All government ministries and institutions are obliged to ensure the payment of their water bills, because money has been allocated in their budget, therefore, the AUWSSC reserves the right to take legal actions against them unless the money is paid," Ministry of Finance (MoF) spokesman Abdul Qadir Jailani explained on Wednesday.

Although TOLOnews tried to get comments from all the relevant ministries regarding the alleged debt, only the Ministry of Commerce and Industries was prepared to respond to the claims. "The ministry did not use even a drop of water provided by AUWSSC, nor it is it in debt, and the claims of the AUWSSC officials are baseless," spokesman Musafir Qoqandi said.

According to AUWSSC officials, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs (MoHRA), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT), Ministry of Economy (MoEc), Kabul Municipality and other government organs have delinquent water bills. The total amount owed is said to be around 400 million AFG.

While the AUWSSC looks to collect on the supposed debt owed to it by the government, just 54 percent of residents in Kabul are said to have access to clean water. Even the water that is provided to bill-paying residents doesn't meet their needs, being delivered just two times a week.

The lack of sufficient water supply for the majority of Kabul residents has led to a growing number of households digging their own deep wells inside their homes. This, in turn, has sparked concerns about underground water flows and erosion issues. But until more residents of the capital can get access to clean water from a formal source, as the government intended the AUWSSC to be, then they will likely continue to rely on their own methods.

Company Threatens Legal Action Against Ministries With Unpaid Water Bills

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:33

Dad Mohammad Baheer, the head of the Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation (AUWSSC), claimed on Wednesday that, excluding the ministries of defense and education, all government institutions were in debt to the organization for delinquent water bills.

"Except the ministries of defense and education, all government ministries are in debt to the corporation, and if they do not pay their water bills within a few weeks, legal action will be taken against them," Baheer told TOLOnews.

The AUWSSC was originally created by the Afghan government in hopes of developing a better supply water and sanitation services for urban areas across the country. However, since the AUWSSC became corporatized, the government has gone into debt, failing to pay for the water and treatment services it requires for its ministries despite the fact that each one receives funding for water and sanitation purposes that is allocated independently from their ordinary budget.

"All government ministries and institutions are obliged to ensure the payment of their water bills, because money has been allocated in their budget, therefore, the AUWSSC reserves the right to take legal actions against them unless the money is paid," Ministry of Finance (MoF) spokesman Abdul Qadir Jailani explained on Wednesday.

Although TOLOnews tried to get comments from all the relevant ministries regarding the alleged debt, only the Ministry of Commerce and Industries was prepared to respond to the claims. "The ministry did not use even a drop of water provided by AUWSSC, nor it is it in debt, and the claims of the AUWSSC officials are baseless," spokesman Musafir Qoqandi said.

According to AUWSSC officials, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs (MoHRA), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT), Ministry of Economy (MoEc), Kabul Municipality and other government organs have delinquent water bills. The total amount owed is said to be around 400 million AFG.

While the AUWSSC looks to collect on the supposed debt owed to it by the government, just 54 percent of residents in Kabul are said to have access to clean water. Even the water that is provided to bill-paying residents doesn't meet their needs, being delivered just two times a week.

The lack of sufficient water supply for the majority of Kabul residents has led to a growing number of households digging their own deep wells inside their homes. This, in turn, has sparked concerns about underground water flows and erosion issues. But until more residents of the capital can get access to clean water from a formal source, as the government intended the AUWSSC to be, then they will likely continue to rely on their own methods.

TOLOnews 6pm News 25 February 2015

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:32

Top news in this Bulletin:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that President Barack Obama will soon finalize his decision on the number of U.S. troops present in Afghanistan, according to a Reuters report.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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 Emphasizing on lasting peace and stability, Afghanistan Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has urged the government to consider the gains in human rights in the peace talks with the Taliban.

Oversight Office Details Corrupt Practices, Criticizes Government For Lack of Reform

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:31

The High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption on Wednesday reported that corruption in the Afghan government, and in the customs department especially, remains pervasive and systematic under the new national unity administration.

According to Sayed Ghulam Hussain Fakhri, the General Director of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, corrupt elements within the Afghan government are able to embezzle what is otherwise much needed government revenue by getting the backing of high-ranking officials.

"Unfortunately, corruption is on the rise, and the methods for paving the way for corruption are complicated," Mr. Fakhri told TOLOnews on Wednesday. "In some cases, the products at customs are processed as low quality, low weight and as a different type," he added, explaining the process by which profit from customs fees are skimmed off the top by officials.

According to Fakhri, members of the government at various levels, including a number of lawmakers in Parliament, are involved in corruption and have strived to prevent investigations and reform. "Major issues exist, many government officials and even a number of MPs and middle-rank employees are involved in corruption," he said.

The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) also spoke out on Wednesday against ongoing corruption in the government. "The commitments made by the leaders of the national unity government provided some hope to the people and the private sector, however, it seems that these commitments weren't met and corruption has remained as it was under the previous government and this is not a good sign," head of ACCI public relations Mohammad Hashim Rassouli said.

Economic experts and representatives of Afghanistan's private sector have repeatedly warned that if corruption is not addressed then foreign investment in the country will continue to flag. In addition, many donor countries in Europe and elsewhere have said they might be forced to cut aid to the Afghan government if concerted reforms geared toward curbing corruption and bolstering accountability are made.

Officials from the oversight office have said there are a variety of methods of corruption that are commonly practiced by government officials. Offering bribes for tax evasion and embezzling government incomes were said to be the most prominent forms. However, other methods such as replacing high quality products with low quality products at customs, confusing regulations for revenue collection, inaccurate reporting on revenue collection and violations of contract laws are all common occurrences.

Obama Will Soon Decide Troop Level in Afghanistan: Kerry

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:09

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that President Barack Obama will soon finalize his decision on the number of U.S. troops present in Afghanistan, according to a Reuters report.

Senator Kerry said as Afghanistan takes on more security responsibility, the number of U.S. troops in the country will reduce. However, the U.S. president is said to announce his final decision on the number of troops to be present in Afghanistan after listening to the suggestions and recommendation of U.S. commanders.

"In the wake of a fractious election, we have helped Afghanistan's new unity government to come together to build on the past economic and social progress and take full responsibility for the security of its citizens," he told Reuters. "I was intimately involved in both negotiating the BSA and this transition. And I can tell you there is a very different process of governance now taking hold in Kabul in Afghanistan."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has warned American citizens in the country that terrorists plan to storm a number of unknown targets in the capital city in the coming days, warning them to take precautions.

"I think the U.S. is quite concerned about the increase activities of Daesh," political analyst Mir Ahmad Joyenda said. "The U.S. has undertaken a number of security measures for its citizens abroad. However, the U.S. must not have such concerns in Afghanistan as the level of threats here are not high."

Currently, the U.S. has 10 diplomats and 10,800 soldiers in Afghanistan with majority engaged in providing, suggesting and advising the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Although, the U.S. combat mission has officially ended in Afghanistan, the U.S. will continue its anti-surge operations in the country targeting Taliban fighters according to the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).