Tolo News – Concerns raised over growing number of female addicts in Kandahar

Kandahar officials said they are also very concerned about the overall increase in drug addiction in the province, putting numbers at around 100,000.

Kandahar – Kandahar Province – Afghanistan, 17 November 2018. Kandahar officials have raised concern over the increasing number of female drug addicts in the province.

According to local officials, there are currently nine women being treated for drug addiction at a rehabilitation center in Kandahar.

The women said that poverty and insecurity have driven them to using drugs.

Doctors at the rehabilitation center said the women have successfully completed one month of their two month program.

The Kandahar health department has also raised concerns over the increasing number of addicts in the province.

According to them there are an estimated 100,000 addicts in the province.

In March, public health ministry officials raised concerns about the alarmingly high number of female drug addicts in the country.

According to them at least one million women and 100,000 children are addicts.

Last year officials stated that three million people in total were addicts, but the new figure of one million female addicts could mean the total number is much higher than initially thought.

Shahpor Yusuf, the head of the anti-drug department at the public health ministry, said in March the number of child addicts was also extremely high – at about 100,000.

These children, officials said, were all below the age of 10.

Currently, there are at least 20 drug rehabilitation centers across the country that treat women and children but official said this is not enough to treat the growing problem.

https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/concerns-raised-over-growing-number-female-addicts-kandahar

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The Hindu – Explosion in front of high school rocks Kabul

Blast took place close to where Afghans have been protesting against Taliban attacks on the minority Hazara ethnic group.

Kabut – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 12 November 2018. Casualties are feared after a huge explosion rocked Kabul on Monday close to where scores of Afghans had been protesting against Taliban attacks on the minority Hazara ethnic group.

The blast struck in front of a high school in the downtown area of the Afghan capital, the interior ministry said.

A photo shared on the popular WhatsApp messaging app showed several bodies lying on the ground.

“It was a huge blast near Istiqlal high school, very close to where the demonstrators were gathering,” witness Qais Nawabi told AFP.

A police officer at the scene said he could see 10 to 15 casualties on the ground, as well as body parts.

“It is hard to see whether it was a suicide attack or a bomb [that had been planted],” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Hundreds of protesters, including university students, had taken to the streets of Kabul to demand the deployment of reinforcements to Hazara-dominated districts in Ghazni province which have been attacked by the Taliban.

Hazaras are not just an ethnic community, most of them are also Shia Muslims.
To learn more about Hazaras you should  read ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini.
Man in Blue

https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/explosion-in-front-of-high-school-rocks-kabul/article25475027.ece?homepage=true

Tolo News – Khalilzad meets with Ghani on first leg of regional visit

The presidential palace said Khalilzad will likely return to Kabul after visiting Pakistan, Qatar and the UAE.

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 11 November 2018. President Ashraf Ghani met with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Saturday night, the presidential palace said in a statement on Sunday.

According to the statement, Ghani was briefed on the envoy’s schedule over the next week, which will see him visit a number of countries in the region.

Ghani thanked Khalilzad for the work he’s doing to bring about peace and discussed issues around his second trip to the region, the statement added.

The statement said it is expected that Khalilzad will return to Kabul to give feedback to Ghani after visiting Pakistan, Qatar and the UAE.

Khalilzad was in the region last month, stopping first in Kabul before visiting four other countries and meeting with the Taliban in Qatar.

After wrapping up his trip he returned to Kabul and briefed the government on his meetings. He also called on the Afghan Government and the Taliban to establish official negotiating teams.

Steps have been taken with regards to this.

On Saturday, the office of the Chief Executive of the National Unity Government welcomed efforts by Khalilzad to bring about peace.

One of the CEO’s spokesmen, Omid Maisam, said the only way to ensure peace in Afghanistan is to put pressure on the Taliban and on countries which are supporting the group.

“I hope that the efforts by Mr. Khalilzad will continue as it is, so that we will witness tangible results,” said Maisam.

The US State Department said last week, Khalilzad, along with a delegation, will visit Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar between November 8 and 20.

https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/khalilzad-meets-ghani-first-leg-regional-visit

Tolo News – Afghan Hindus, Sikhs are not celebrating Diwali this year

Members of Hindu and Sikh community in Afghanistan said threats against them have increased and that they are worried about their safety.

Nabila Ashrafi

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 09 November 2018. The Afghan Hindus and Sikhs say they will not celebrate this year’s Diwali festival due to deadly incidents took place in the country recent months.

The festival was not held last year either due to a deadly incident in Kabul.

Hindus and Sikhs living in Kabul said that the death of 14 Hindus and Sikhs in Nangarhar bombing July, assassination of former Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq and Helmand parliamentary elections candidate Abdul Jabar Qahraman are some of the violent incidents that have left them with no option rather than canceling the celebration of the festival.

Diwali is a Hindu festival with lights, held in the period October to November.

“How can we celebrate our happiness while everyday soldiers, ordinary people and elders are killed?” asked Narinder Singh Khalsa, Hindus and Sikhs representative.

The Hindus and Sikhs said their safety has been fragile in the recent years as according to them many Afghan Hindus and Sikhs have left the country over the past years.

“We don’t want to hold Diwali festival this year due to Jalalabad incident and the loss of important figures such as General Raziq and Jabar Qahraman,” said Sorpal Singh Khalsa, deputy head of a committee of Hindus and Sikhs.

Diwali is one of the most valued festivals for Hindus and Sikhs in the world and they celebrate it by music, fireworks and lighting candles.

“In previous years, we were doing fireworks and based on the principles of the festival, our sisters were coming and we were giving them their expenses as gift and we were very happy,” said Kartar Singh, a resident of Kabul, who explained their excitement in Diwali celebrations of previous years.

“This festival was celebrated widely in Afghanistan in previous years, but now our population has decreased here. In the past, we were 120,000 families in Afghanistan,”said Ragbir Singh, member of Hindus and Sikhs committee of Dharamsala in Kabul.

Hindus and Sikhs have lived in Afghanistan for generations; however, various conflicts have forced many of them to leave the country and settle elsewhere.

https://www.tolonews.com/index.php/afghanistan/afghan-hindus-sikhs-are-not-celebrating-diwali-year

Tolo News – Sami ul Haq’s death met with mixed reaction

Many in Afghanistan said his death was a step towards peace, while many Pakistani’s said his demise was a loss to their country.

Tamim Hamid

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 03 November 2018. The assassination of Maulana Sami ul Haq, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan, in Pakistan on Friday evening, has been met with mixed reaction in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, politicians, MPs and members of the public believe the assassination of Sami ul Haq, who was also known as the spiritual father of the Taliban, was a huge strike against insurgency.

But in Pakistan sentiments differed as many people felt he had been heavily involved in efforts started by the US to bring peace to the region.

Sami ul Haq was killed on Friday evening at his home in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi city by unknown men. He was stabbed to death.

For years, Sami ul Haq had said Afghanistan was an occupied country and that he supported the fight against the Afghan government and foreign troops in the country.

His assassination was meanwhile discussed in Saturday’s Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) session, where MPs also raised questions about what the consequences could be for the region.

Some MPs said Sami ul Haq had not been an important figure and that Taliban’s war against the Afghan government was being managed by other elements and not by people such as Sami ul Haq.

“The Taliban war is being managed by others. They (Sami ul Haq) only speak and are not important. It is known who makes the decisions and who administers (the war) and where the Taliban’s sanctuaries are; the westerners (Americans) know it,” MP Nazir Ahmad Hanafi said.

But other MPs felt differently.

“I see Sami ul Haq’s assassination as a positive step toward maintaining peace. Anyone who creates obstacles in the way of peace, will have a destiny like Sami ul Haq,” MP Lalai Hamidzai said.

“Remain loyal to your country, otherwise the countries will use you and in the end will kill you like this (like Sami ul Haq),” MP Aryan Youn said.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Gul, the son of Pakistan’s former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) General Hamid Gul, was also attacked on Friday night, an hour after the assassination of Sami ul Haq.

Abdullah Gul had been on his way to Islamabad when he was shot at.

“As the attack was managed against Maulana, who was killed, I was also attacked on my way to Islamabad. Two vehicles in front and behind opened fire on me (my vehicle), but I arrived here safely,” said Abdullah Gul.

Taliban meanwhile said in a statement that Sami ul Haq’s assassination was a big loss for Pakistan.

The Pakistani’s also see it as a big loss for their country.

“I think all Pakistan belongs to his party. Not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan’s people also belong to him (his party),” Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah said.

“His death is a loss for Pakistan, because he was playing a role in talks with the Taliban. Recently, he had taken on the job to talk with Taliban. He went to Kabul and participated in the talks. His death is a big loss for Pakistan and the US peace process in the region,” Chaudhary Javed, a Pakistani journalist said.

During the 1980s, Sami ul Haq served as a senator for two terms in Pakistan’s upper house and fully supported action against Afghanistan’s governments.

Darul Uloom Haqqania in the northern town of Akora Khattak was founded by his father in 1947.

Thousands of students attend this Darul Uloom and also senior Afghan Taliban leaders such as Mullah Omar, Mullah Akhtar Mansour and Jalaluddin Haqqani attended this Darul Uloom while reports indicate hundreds of students from his madrassa have fought and are still fighting against the Afghan government.

Sami ul Haq was 80 years old and according to his relatives, recently received death threats.

However, so far no one and no group has claimed responsibility for his assassination.

https://www.tolonews.com/index.php/afghanistan/sami-ul-haq%E2%80%99s-death-met-mixed-reaction

Tolo News – Five people killed in Wardak explosion

Twelve others were also wounded in the explosion that targeted a military repair facility.

Maidan Shar – Wardak province – Afghanistan, 27 October 2018. At least five people were killed in a suicide attack early Saturday in Maidan Wardak province, police said.

According to police the attack took place at an army repair workshop in Maidan Shar city.

Police said that 12 others were wounded in the attack.

Meanwhile, another source said that at least seven people were killed, and 33 others were wounded in the attack.

Taliban claimed responsibility.

https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/five-people-killed-wardak-explosion

Sikh24.com – United Sikhs call upon Canadian Prime Minister and House of Commons to provide asylum to Afghan minorities

Ottawa – Ontario – Canada, 26 October 2018. United Sikhs this week announced a call to action in the House of Commons alongside several members of Parliament to address the increasingly desperate plight of religious minorities in Afghanistan.

After gaining the support of several policy stakeholders, including MPs Garnett Genuis, Elizabeth May, Cheryl Hardcastle, Harold Albrecht, Lisa Raitt, Arnold Viersen and Bob Saroya, following a series of targeted terrorist attacks against Sikhs over the summer, the non-profit human rights organization is now calling upon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urgently process asylum for minorities facing religious persecution.

“I was very pleased to join with so many members of various opposition parties, including the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, to table a petition in the House of Commons in support of persecuted minority communities in Afghanistan,” said MP Genuis, who led the news conference on Wednesday.

“The cross-party engagement on this will hopefully help to move the ball forward and bring about government action, in terms of advocacy, and in terms of facilitating the private sponsorship of refugees by the community here in Canada.”

The news conference comes within weeks of a written human rights statement the organization submitted to the United Nations during a Human Rights Council Session held in Geneva, Switzerland last month.

The three main areas of concern for religious minorities in Afghanistan, as outlined by United Sikhs, are personal safety/security, religious freedom, and the right to life.

As recent as last month, a marked uptick of attacks against Hindus and Sikhs across Afghanistan have become increasingly brutal. On Sept. 1, Satnam Singh and his son, who are both identifiable Sikhs, were shot and killed in their own shop in the Herat Province.

This is believed to be the second marked attack on the Sikh minority after the Taliban orchestrated a suicide bombing on July 1, in which 13 Hindu and Sikh dignitaries were targeted and killed while on their way to a meeting with government officials in Jallalabad.

“The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating for religious minorities,” said Jagdeep Singh, United Sikhs Director of Human Rights Policy, during the news conference.

“Sikhs are forced into segregation and Muslim conversion, and Gurdwaras (Sikh schools of spiritual learning) are regularly attacked by the Taliban and other extremist groups. In 1992, historic records indicate 60,000 lived in Afghanistan (down from 200,000 at one time). Today, there are as few as 1,200 in the country.”

In conjunction with the news conference, a petition of thousands of Canadian residents was formally submitted in the House of Commons, led by MP Garnett Genius, urging the Prime Minister to expedite asylum and grant the local Sikh and Hindu community with requested sponsorship.

“This petition calls for the government to do more to advocate with our Afghan counterpart for the rights of these minorities, and it also asks the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to use the powers granted him to create a special program to help persecuted minorities in Afghanistan,” Genius stated to the Speaker while submitting the petition during regular proceedings on the House of Commons floor.

“The community here in Canada is ready to sponsor these communities. It’s been three years, it’s time for action.”

“At one time, Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and today, less than 5,000 remain,” said MP Harold Albrecht in support of the petition presented.

“We’re calling on the Minister, pointing out to the Minister, that he already has the power, by legislation, to allow vulnerable minorities to come to Canada as privately sponsored refugees directly from the country where they face persecution, and further urging the Minister to raise the persecution faced by this community with the Afghan counterpart and to strongly advocate for more to be done to protect them.”

Building upon this effort, United Sikhs will formally request a meeting with the Prime Minister and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. In addition, the organization will continue to raise the issue with members of Congress in the United States and Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom.

We should not forget the plight of the Shia Hazaras, an ethnic and religious minority despised by most Afghans, whose mosques are regularly bombed by Taliban and other violent groups.
Man in Blue

https://www.sikh24.com/2018/10/26/united-sikhs-calls-upon-canadian-prime-minister-and-house-of-commons-to-provide-asylum-to-afghan-minorities/#.W9T-5uJoTIU

The News – Brother appointed to succeed killed Afghan commander

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 22 October 2018. The brother of the powerful police commander of the southern Afghan province of Kandahar assassinated last week was named as his successor on Monday in move that underlines the pressures facing President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

General Abdul Razeq, one of Afghanistan’s most feared anti-Taliban commanders, was shot dead when a member of the provincial governor’s bodyguard opened fire on officials leaving a meeting with NATO forces commander General Scott Miller.

Razeq, nominally the Kandahar police chief, was one of the most powerful figures in the whole of southern Afghanistan.

A member of the powerful Pashtun Achakzai tribe and a skillful operator in the region’s complex tribal politics, he regularly clashed with Ghani’s government in Kabul but enjoyed wide support and was impossible to remove.

The nomination of Razeq’s younger brother Tadeen Khan as acting police chief of Kandahar followed heavy pressure from powerful tribal elders who forced the government to overlook his lack of experience and training.

Ghani’s government initially rejected the demand on the grounds that Khan lacked qualifications, a senior Afghan official said, but gave way after the Achakzais threatened to boycott parliamentary elections.

“Ghani knows he will need the support of many tribes to retain power, so he has to listen to them and accept their demands,” said Abdul Rashid Khan a political science professor at Kabul University.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/384176-brother-appointed-to-succeed-killed-afghan-commander

Tolo News – Barmak Confirms 192 security incidents on election day

Interior Minister told ToloNews that 17 civilians and 11 security force members had been killed during the day in security-related incidents

Kabul – Kabul province – Afghanistan, 20 October 2018. Minister of Interior Wais Barmak told ToloNews on Saturday evening that 192 security incidents had been reported countrywide during the day, as people cast their votes in the long-awaited parliamentary elections.

He said these included a number of different types of incidents including grenade and IED explosions.

Barmak said at least 17 civilians were killed and 83 civilians wounded in these incident and there had been 1,700 threats issued.

The minister also said 10 policemen were killed and one Afghan National Army soldier was killed. Seventeen security forces were wounded throughout the day, he added.

Officials from the interior ministry said earlier in the day although a number of incidents were recorded nationwide, the enemy did not manage achieve its goal of disrupting elections.

General Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi, deputy minister of interior for security said the deadliest attack on Saturday had been a suicide bombing in Kabul’s PD17 that claimed the lives of 10 civilians and five policemen.

Officials said despite the attacks, people still went to the polling centers.

https://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/interior-minister-confirms-192-security-incidents-election-day

Al Jazeera – Their relatives were killed. Now they’re running for parliament

An Afghan Sikh, a female engineer and a 54-year-old from Nangarhar have seen violence and now campaign for security.

Shereena Qazi & Sayed Jalal Shajjan

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 18 October 2018. Narinder Singh Khalsa’s father, Avtar Singh Khalsa, was killed last July in an attack claimed by ISIL in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad.

Now, the 38-year-old Sikh Afghan is continuing his father’s legacy and contesting the parliamentary elections on October 20.

Avtar was a long-time leader of the tiny Sikh community, comprising fewer than 300 families in Afghanistan, and the only Sikh candidate in the upcoming polls.

After he and 19 members of his community died in the July suicide bombing, the Sikh community called on Narinder to represent them by running in place of his father.

Education, land rights and security for his community top Narinder’s agenda.

“I want to stand up for the rights of my people, I want to get their rights from the government and from the international community, because we have suffered for years,” Narinder told Al Jazeera.

“The people, our Afghan people, have to know that there are not just Muslims in this country. Whoever is living here, regardless of his or her religious background or ethnicity, is an Afghan.”

Across Kabul, candidates’ posters carry messages pledging to improve security, root out corruption and reform education.

More than 2,500 candidates are running in the third parliamentary election since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, including 418 women.

They are competing for the 250 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament.

But the candidates face continuous risks, with the Taliban promising to disrupt the “bogus elections”.

“People who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted and no stone should be left unturned for the prevention and failure [of the election],” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement last week.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) said in a statement on Wednesday that at least 10 candidates have been killed since July.

Abdul Jabar Qahraman was killed in his office on Wednesday by a bomb planted under his chair, in the southern Helmand province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group has repeatedly warned politicians to withdraw from the ballot, but Kabul’s independent candidate, engineer Zakia Wardak, says she has “seen it all” when it comes to violence in the country and will not step down.

“My father, General Abdul Ali Wardak, was killed during the communist regime in 1978 in Afghanistan,” she said, referring to the years when the Afghan communist party launched a coup against President Mohammed Daoud, killed him and took power until 1992.

“And my brother Zalmay Wardak, who was a former Afghan National Army (ANA) general, and a candidate for this year’s parliamentary elections, was mysteriously murdered at his home in Kabul in August.”

Wardak, who also lost her husband in an accident in Kabul in 2011, encourages young girls to pursue education and “face difficulties in life with bravery”.

“Men are responsible to provide for their families and when you lose men, you become helpless. The only way out of helplessness is to be educated and strong. This is why I will fight for education for women if I win a seat in the parliament.”

Zakia, who is head of the Women Engineers Association in Kabul, wants to “open doors of the parliament to Afghans in need”.

As she campaigns, she reminds Afghans of their right to vote and the impact they can have.

“I want people to know who they are voting for, do some background research on the candidate. Has the candidate helped anyone before? It is important for them to know the power of a single vote.”

In spite of the candidates’ enthusiasm, Afghans have little faith in the political process.

The polls were originally set to be held in early 2015 following presidential elections in 2014, but were delayed to July 7, 2018, and then pushed to October 20 due to security fears and reforms in voter registration.

“I am not willing to vote because due to security and corruption, the election, just like before, won’t be transparent,” Zmaria, 50, a taxi driver in Kabul, told Al Jazeera.

“When a parliament member is selected, they don’t do anything for us and only work on developing their own lives and businesses.

“Why should we trust them when there is a war going on in the country and people are dying every day in the attacks, will they speak to the Taliban or Daesh (ISIL) to not kill us?”

According to local media, turnout is expected to be lower than the 8.9 million registered to vote.

An MP helps with making laws and overseeing the government. They receive a monthly salary of between $2,400 and $2,600. They also get immunity from prosecution and imprisonment.

‘Being a politician is not easy in Afghanistan’

Abdul Rahman Shams, a 54-year-old candidate from Nangarhar, said Afghans have “suffered and sacrificed so much for decades” and deserve sincerity from politicians.

Shams’s cousin, Abdul Zahir Haqqani, the director of religious affairs and Hajj pilgrimage department, was targeted and killed when a suicide bomber walked up to his car and detonated his explosives in March in Jalalabad, Nangarhar’s capital.

Haqqani was a vocal critic of the Taliban and ISIL.

“Being a politician is not easy in a country like Afghanistan. I have seen so much in the past decades; children left orphans, women widowed and so much more, but I can’t hide from my responsibilities, I will fulfil my promises and try to help,” he said.

“People have put their faith in me. I hope all of us gather under one flag united and strong.”

The elections will be held in 27,000 polling stations in 5,100 polling centers in 33 of 34 provinces. The vote for Ghazni province’s 11 seats has been delayed until next year due high security threat.

At least 2,000 polling stations threatened directly by the Taliban will remain closed.

The fighters said in their statement that teachers should prevent their schools from being used as polling stations, warning of attacks.

Local media reported some 50,000 soldiers will be deployed across Afghanistan to provide security.

The parliamentary elections are being seen as a dry run for the presidential vote, expected to be held in April 2019.

“War has negative effect on a society, it affects the economy and kills positivity,” said Zakia Wardak, the female candidate in Kabul.

“I know we are in danger every second, but we love our country and we are here to stand beside our people.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/relatives-killed-running-parliament-181017223628538.html