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Afghanistan ‘ready to be included’ in major regional projects

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(Last Updated On: October 27, 2022)

Afghanistan stakeholders have said that with improved security in the country since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover, the country is now more than ready to be included in major regional projects, including China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative.

The China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is part of the One Belt One Road or New Silk Road initiative, which includes a land trade route from China to Pakistan’s Gwadar port.

The project includes two highways, two railway lines and a major hydroelectricity dam on the Kunar River.

The idea is to lay a road linking Pakistan’s Peshawar to Kabul and also to Kunduz and then further into Central Asia. Railway lines are expected to run from Landi-Kotal in Pakistan to Afghanistan’s Jalalabad, and also from Pakistan’s Chaman to Spin Boldak in Afghanistan.

China’s economic growth in previous years has made the countries participating in the One Belt One Road initiative optimistic and perceive the project to be comparable to China’s development of Shenzhen city, which conceptualized in 1980, has since grown into a metropolis in less than 30 years with a population of ten million.

Now, analysts are hoping Afghanistan will become part of another key undertaking by China – the One Belt One Road initiative.

“If this project (One Belt One Road) was not done through Afghanistan, I don’t think that the project would be very successful; if Afghanistan was not included, if this road passes through other routes, naturally, Afghanistan will not be a connecting point, and people’s perception will be that Afghanistan is not a connecting point but a season point,” said Imam Mohammad Warimach, former deputy minister of transport for Afghanistan.

The One Belt One Road is expected to start from the city of Xi An, in China and cross many Asian countries to Europe and Africa.

Afghan experts believe that China has adopted a new economy-oriented policy on Afghanistan.

“The government of Afghanistan and the continuous security crisis in this country have not given us the opportunity to have a proper awareness of the One Belt One Road Initiative, but China, as a close neighbor of Afghanistan, is trying to bring this country into an international economic cycle,” said Nazir Kabiri, researcher at Biruni Institute, a research organization in Kabul.

The One Belt One Road initiative will reportedly cover 65 countries – home to about 60% of the world’s population – and the cost of which will be about $4 trillion across 900 different projects.

“China is the world champion in the infrastructure sector, strong infrastructure has been built in China, which has a very high capacity, many raw materials are not needed in China and this is a unique opportunity for the Chinese to export them,” said Sebastian Heilmann founding director of the Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Considering the economic problems that Afghanistan is facing, Afghan experts believe that the country should be included in China’s One Belt One Road initiative, as it will help accelerate the construction of infrastructure, gain geographical advantages, and turn Afghanistan into an economically developed country.

In addition, while Afghanistan contends with an economic crisis, no country has yet recognized the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government. However, the IEA is trying to overcome problems by focusing on infrastructure and economic development projects as well as establishing strong ties with foreign countries, analysts have said.

Baradar meets with envoy

This comes after Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund, the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, met with China’s Ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu on Wednesday and called on Beijing to include Afghanistan in the “One Belt One Road” initiative.

According to a statement released by Baradar’s office, the focus of the meeting was on the implementation of key economic projects that have been agreed upon by the two countries.

Meanwhile, Wang stated that his country “wants to deepen its ties with Afghanistan and supports the new government in any situation.”

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UN body condemns burning of Holy Quran in Sweden

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

The Deputy Special Representative, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, has condemned the burning of a copy of the Holy Quran in Sweden.

Alakbarov called this action disgusting and said that it is not the same as freedom of expression and respecting each other is necessary to promote a peaceful atmosphere.

The High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Miguel Angel Moratinos on Tuesday also condemned the act of burning a copy of the Holy Quran in Sweden last Saturday by the leader of a right-wing (hard line) party.

In a statement, the UNAOC Representative stressed the importance of preserving freedom of expression as a basic human right, but he also stressed that burning the Holy Quran amounts to “expressing hatred of Muslims.”

“It is an offensive and insulting act to followers of Islam, and it should not be confused with freedom of expression.”

Moratinos stressed that the exercise of freedom of expression carries with it duties and responsibilities.

He expressed deep concern about the high number of cases of discrimination, intolerance and violence in general, regardless of the actors, especially those directed against followers of many religions and societies around the world, “including cases driven by Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and prejudices against people of color, other religions or beliefs.”

Moratinos affirmed that “mutual respect is necessary to build and promote just, inclusive, and peaceful societies rooted in human rights and dignity for all.”

He referred to the United Nations Action Plan for the Protection of Religious Places, led by the UNAOC, which provides a framework and a number of recommendations, including the promotion of religious pluralism, dialogue between followers of religions and cultures, and mutual respect and understanding.

Meanwhile, the people of Afghanistan have also protested in response to this issue and in a protest movement they say that Muslims should unite against such acts. “We call on the countries to bring such people to justice and punish them,” said Sayed Mohammad, a protestor in Zabul province.

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Top U.N. officials seek to ‘water down’ bans on women in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

The United Nations is pushing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) administration for more exemptions to its ban on most female aid workers, top U.N. officials said on Wednesday, while also expressing concern that foreign women working for international organizations and embassies could next be targeted.

Speaking to Reuters during a visit to Kabul, U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said that his message during meetings with Taliban officials had been: “If you can’t help us rescind the ban, give us the exemptions to allow women to operate.”

Last month, the IEA – who seized power in August 2021 – banned most female aid workers and stopped women from attending university after stopping girls from attending high school in March. Griffiths traveled to Afghanistan after a visit last week by U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.

Griffiths said some exemptions to the female aid worker ban had been granted in health and education and that there were indications there could be a possible exemption in agriculture. But he said much more was needed, with nutrition and water and sanitation services a priority to prevent severe illnesses and malnutrition during a severe humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Reuters reported.

“We have not seen the history of the Taliban (IEA) reversing any edict. What we have seen is exemptions that, hopefully, if we keep pushing them, they will water down those edicts to a point where we will get women and girls back into school and into the workplace,” Mohammed told reporters in New York on Wednesday.

Griffiths told Reuters that, following his recent discussions with the IEA, he was hopeful they would create a set of written guidelines to allow aid groups to operate with female staff in more areas with certainty in coming weeks.

“The next few weeks are absolutely crucial to see if the humanitarian community … can stay and deliver,” he said, while cautioning: “I don’t want to speculate as to whether we’re going to come out of this in the right place.”

The IEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans over guidelines.

During her visit last week, Mohammed met with the Shura – the leadership council that issues the bans – in the southern Taliban heartland of Kandahar. She said there is a concern that they may next prohibit “international women from international organizations and embassies.”

“It hasn’t happened so far,” said Mohammed, adding that they had been expecting a possible announcement all month. “I don’t say that it won’t, but clearly the pressure that we’re putting on has stopped that rollback as quickly.”

Griffiths said the United Nations would continue operating in Afghanistan wherever it could, but there was a concern that international donors might not want to commit to the huge financial cost of aid at around $4.6 billion a year.

“I lose sleep about this, I really do,” Griffiths said, adding that he would meet with donors in coming weeks to make the case for why Afghanistan needed help during an intense humanitarian crisis in which 28 million people were in need of aid, including 6 million on the brink of famine.

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Pakistan, Russia reaffirm commitment to practical engagement with Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs said Islamabad and Moscow have reaffirmed their commitment to continuing practical engagement with the Afghan authorities to ensure stability and peace in the country.

According to a statement issued Thursday, the two sides also expressed their commitment to joint efforts to solve issues related to regional security.

The statement came after a meeting between Russian Special Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov and Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday.

Underscoring that a peaceful neighborhood remained a strategic imperative for Pakistan, Khar stressed that Afghanistan, with its location as a bridge between Central Asia and South Asia, is central to achieving the full potential of socio-economic development and regional connectivity, Xinhua reported.

The minister also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to working with other regional countries to achieve the goals.

He urged the international community to extend assistance and support in order to address urgent humanitarian needs and to provide a sustainable pathway for Afghanistan’s prosperity and development.

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