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Karzai says despite the onset of ‘peace’, Afghanistan is facing immense hardships

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

Former president Hamid Karzai said this week that despite the tumultuous past year, Afghans are “happier” that there is no longer a large-scale war being waged in their country.

He said the conflict, which caused loss of Afghan lives on both sides, was “fortunately over” but that Afghanistan is facing “immense difficulties”.

In an interview with India Today, to coincide with the one year anniversary of the take over by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) Karzai said “Afghanistan is facing immense difficulties” economically. He said this was compounded by the loss of skilled Afghans who migrated.

Karzai said however, that the ruling IEA was still a way off from winning the trust of the international community in terms of being recognized as the new government.

He said that many of the IEA leaders agree “with an Afghanistan that’s inclusive, with an Afghanistan that has girls going to school, and an Afghanistan that is working hard towards well-being and a better economy.”

“With regard to recognition by the international community it is based on two fundamental conditions to be fulfilled. One is the fulfilling of the needs of the Afghan people, the education of girls is one such issue, and then inclusivity is another such issue,” he said.

“Once this is fulfilled and the Afghan people see that the country is moving in the direction that’s in the interests of the people, and the country of course, automatically the question of international recognition will be resolved.”

Karzai also emphasized that “the people of Afghanistan have been victims of terrorism for a long long time,” adding that he feels with certainty that the people of Afghanistan “are the greatest victims of terrorism and extremism.”

“Unfortunately at the same time, the Afghan people are also victims of the fight against terrorism; so we have suffered both from terrorism and from the consequences of the fight against terrorism,” he said.

He also stated that Afghans do not want terrorists in their country, whether it be groups or individuals, but at the same time Afghans do not want their sovereignty violated in the name of the fight against terrorism.

Regarding the US’s claims that it killed the al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul last month, Karzai pointed out that the IEA said at the time that it was not aware of his presence in the country but that they would carry out an investigation into the claims and incident.

Emphasizing the dire economic situation, exacerbated by the mass migration of skilled workers, Karzai said: “One of the greatest losses of our country in the past one year has been the leaving of our educated and capable people from our own country; the loss of this educated part of the Afghan population is an immense irreparable loss and our effort is exactly this to have an Afghanistan where all the Afghan people can come back, where all the Afghan people can be working in and participating in, where all the Afghan people find their country to be belonging to all of us; this is our effort and this has to succeed for the well- being of all including for the current government.”

He said it is up to the current government, the IEA, to make sure that those Afghans return and that they find place in their own country and respect in their own country
and an environment where they can work and grow and prosper together with all the Afghan people.

“The Taliban (IEA) and all other Afghans belong to this country and we need to work together for a better Afghanistan; that is imperative for us to be independent, strong and growing,” he said.

On Afghan-Indian relations, he called on New Delhi to reopen its embassy in Kabul “in full strength” and to allow Afghan students to return to India for study purposes.

Karzai said he was confident the IEA would do its best to provide security to the Indian embassy should it reopen in Kabul.

He also stated that he wants Afghanistan “to be a place of cooperation between our neighbors and big powers,” adding that Afghanistan’s relations with India are historic and go back centuries”.

In conclusion he said: “I have hopes for Afghanistan; very very good hopes for Afghanistan. This country will be fine, this country will do well; I’m also hopeful that things will change for the better in Afghanistan.

“Definitely there is a need for certain changes in the policies of the current government, the issue of girls going to school is extremely important; that must change, and those schools must reopen immediately; and inclusivity and so many other issues that have to be addressed, that we are working on.

But on the whole, he said Afghanistan is a very old country and that temporary setbacks and difficulties “will not stop it from the long march towards a better future.”

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Millions in US dollars smuggled into Afghanistan from Pakistan daily

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(Last Updated On: February 7, 2023)

Millions of dollars are being smuggled into Afghanistan from Pakistan every day, providing some support for the fragile economy.

Muhammad Zafar Paracha, general secretary of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, told Bloomberg that traders and smugglers bring as much as $5 million across the border daily, which more than covers the as much as $17 million that Afghanistan’s central bank injects into the market each week.

The illicit cash flows show how the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is evading sanctions after their 2021 takeover of the country, Bloomberg reported.

For Pakistan, however, it’s contributing to the depletion of foreign reserves and adding to the downward pressure on the rupee as the currency tumbles to record lows and the economy teeters on the edge of collapse.

“Currency is being smuggled without any doubt,” Paracha told Bloomberg. “This has become quite a lucrative business.”

“Afghanistan has about a $10 to $15 million requirement on a daily basis,” said Khurram Schehzad, chief executive officer at Alpha Beta Core Solutions Pvt Ltd., a financial consultancy in Karachi. Half of this is estimated to come from Pakistan, he said.

Da Afghanistan Bank, the country’s central bank, has enough dollars in reserve to support the economy, the bank’s spokesman Haseeb Noori told Bloomberg.

However, some of it comes from the UN, which has been providing about $40 million in humanitarian aid each week since late 2021.

This cash is transported by air to Kabul each week and much of it then needs to be converted into afghani after it arrives. So even though the aid doesn’t directly benefit the IEA, the dollars ultimately end up in the central bank’s coffers, Bloomberg reported, adding that the UN wasn’t immediately available to comment.

According to the report, the afghani has gained about 5.6% against the US dollar over the past year through Monday, one of the strongest performances of any currency in the world.

This while Pakistan’s rupee has lost about 37% against the US currency over the same period, one of the largest declines. It fell about 10% in one day in late January, the biggest drop in at least two decades, as the crisis-stricken government relaxed its grip over the exchange rate in a bid to win much-needed loans from the IMF, Bloomberg reported.

However, according to Bloomberg, the smuggling of US dollars into Afghanistan really took off in the middle of last year after Afghanistan increased coal exports to Pakistan.

In addition, it has been boosted by the IEA’s ban on the use of Pakistan’s rupee as legal tender in Afghanistan, which forces exporters to trade in dollars and bring the US currency back to the country, the officials told Bloomberg.

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Otunbayeva meets acting head of TVET in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) emphasized the need for the inclusion of women and girls in vocational education on Monday in a meeting with Ghulam Haider Shahamat, acting head of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

In this meeting, Roza Otunbayeva said that vocational training is necessary for the economic development of Afghanistan and women and girls should be included.

Shahamat also expressed that technical and vocational education is effective for poverty alleviation and the growth of the country’s economy.

“The Technical Vocational Education and Training has 383 institutes and high schools all over Afghanistan, which operate in 250 districts and have 6850 staff,” said Shahamat.

Meanwhile, some experts say that Afghanistan needs to develop and create job opportunities for everyone, especially women and girls, and all international institutions play a constructive role for Afghanistan’s progress.

“All organizations which work under the framework of the United Nations can have positive roles in Afghanistan,” said Sarah Rahmani, women rights activist.

In this meeting, the head of the United Nations Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) was also present and emphasized on signing an agreement and creating a joint working group between both institutions.

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Afghanistan’s central bank to auction $17 million this week

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) has announced that it will auction $17 million on Wednesday as part of the efforts to stabilize the value of the Afghan currency against foreign currencies.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the Central Bank of Afghanistan asked qualified private banks and exchange companies to participate in the auction.

The winners of the auction are obliged to settle their accounts by the end of the day. As per the announcement, partial settlement of transactions is not allowed and the winners of the auction are obliged to transfer the payable amount to the central bank in cash within a certain time.

This is the second time in a week the central bank is auctioning US dollars to keep the value of Afghani stable.

The exchange rate was 90 AFN to the US dollar on Monday, February 6, 2023. The central bank sold $16 million on Sunday.

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