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Rights watchdog, UN and Afghan women band together over ceasefire calls

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(Last Updated On: June 17, 2021)

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and UN Women Afghanistan stated that gendered ceasefires are a prerequisite for peace talks and a negotiated settlement.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the organizations said that women across the globe have long been at the frontlines of conflict and crisis, pioneering ways to end the conflict, participating in peace, and advocating for the rights of women and girls in agreement seeking to end violent conflict. 

“Yet often, women’s expertise and priorities are excluded from formal ceasefire agreements and implementation mechanisms. In Afghanistan, women continue to risk their lives every day in the name of peace,” the statement read.

The organizations added that 2020 marked the highest number of women killed since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began systematic documentation in 2009.

Shaharzad Akbar Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission stated: “Why are we talking about ceasefires and peace when the violence rates are so high? Because this is the common demand of all Afghans, across ethnicities, across genders, across geographies, across age groups: the end of war and ceasefire. From a human rights perspective, from all perspectives, this the biggest need, working for peace”

The publication – Gender-responsive ceasefires and ceasefire agreements – was launched for highlighting how a gender-responsive ceasefire is urgently needed in the context of Afghanistan to secure the conditions for meaningful peace talks, the statement noted.

The publication outlines a practical set of recommended entry points for securing gender-related provisions in the ceasefire text as well as outlining how ceasefire agreements can address the gender dynamics of conflict, the organizations said.

The publication was launched at an event in which Abdullah Abdullah, Chairperson of High Council for National Reconciliation; Hasina Safi, Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs; Habiba Sarabi, Member of Peace Negotiation Team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; and Mette Knudsen, Deputy Special Representative of the US Secretary-General were present.

The event featured a collective call for a ceasefire from Afghan women across provinces and the international community in Kabul to put an end to all forms of violence, the organizations noted.

“For the last 40 years, women have been the major victims of war. If we really want a ceasefire that lasts, we need women to be part of it and all their needs must be taken very well into consideration. Peace is what all Afghan people want. A just peace, a peace for all. A justified peace that takes the rights of all Afghans into consideration,” Abdullah Abdullah said.

“Today’s discussion, on gender provisions in ceasefire agreements, is very timely for Afghanistan. The need to reduce violence remains. Women are concerned that their rights will be at risk, they are concerned that the civil society space is shrinking. All Afghans, particularly women, are asking for an end to violence in all its forms,” said Mette Knudsen.

Aleta Miller, a UN Women Representative in Afghanistan, stated that Afghanistan can lead the world on peace processes. 

“Globally, peace processes say little or nothing about women’s rights, and statistically equality between women and men is a pre-requisite for long-lasting peace. Afghanistan can and should be different. But for any progress to happen, violence, in all its forms, must stop. It must stop now and forever, for any peace to happen, for any peace to last, for any progress.” Miller said.

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US to provide $55 million in additional aid for immediate earthquake assistance: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

In response to the deadly earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan last Wednesday, the United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), will provide nearly $55 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to meet urgent needs of people affected. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday the United States would provide the additional funds for immediate humanitarian assistance. 

The new funding brings total US humanitarian assistance to over $774 million in the last year, Blinken added.

According to a statement issued by USAID on Tuesday, this additional assistance includes support for USAID partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to continue to reach earthquake-affected people with urgently needed shelter materials, water, sanitation, and hygiene supplies, and other relief items. 

“These vital supplies include emergency shelter kits, cooking pots, jerry cans for water collection and storage, blankets, solar lamps, clothing, and other household items. In addition, this support will provide hygiene kits, menstrual hygiene supplies, and water treatment kits. 

“Given that the area impacted by the earthquake was already experiencing an acute watery diarrhea outbreak, this relief will help mitigate a larger waterborne disease outbreak in the aftermath of this disaster, when there is greater risk given the lack of access to safe water,” the statement read. 

The US response came just hours after the United Nations launched an emergency appeal for $110 million to provide lifesaving assistance to more than 360,000 Afghans who were affected by last week’s earthquake in Paktika and Khost provinces.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said early Tuesday that the new appeal is part of this year’s Humanitarian Response plan, which calls for $4.4 billion, but is massively underfunded at just over one third.

“We and our partners are borrowing supplies, personnel, and resources from other humanitarian programmes,” UNOCHA said in a statement.

Wednesday’s earthquake killed over a thousand people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in Paktika and Khost provinces.

“I’m appealing to the world — please help. We need money. We need funding. We need support to resolve this tragedy,” Ramiz Alakbarov, UN resident relief coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a video message while visiting an area in Paktika province.

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IEA to hold ‘Grand Assembly’ in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is scheduled to hold a Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, for three days starting Wednesday, and will bring together almost 3,000 mainly religious scholars from across all 34 provinces. 

According to IEA officials, the participants, which include two religious scholars and one further representative from every district, are expected to present suggestions to the leadership of the IEA on ways to resolve challenges currently facing the country.

The assembly will be held in the Loya Jirga hall in Kart-e-Mamourin in Kabul city.

So far the agenda of this Loya Jirga has not been announced officially but according to sources, a number of issues will be tabled including that pertaining to matters of national importance, and maybe the issue of reopening girls’ schools.

“In such gatherings we can solve many problems and the participation of women is essential to address their rights and problems; girls’ schools must be reopened and the current crisis in all sections must be solved,” said Dewa Patang, a women’s activist. 

The main agenda will reportedly focus on finding solutions to current crises in the country, sources said.  

“Based on the information that I have, all participants who are invited to this gathering are scholars and patriots who are committed to their country and Islam,” said Toryali Hemat, a political analyst.

Members of the public meanwhile feel the Loya Jirga members should present possible solutions to resolving problems in the country – both economic and social – in order to draw a clear road map for the future of the country. 

Historically, a Loya Jirga has been convened in order to elect a new head of state, approve a new constitution or resolve critical issues.

Loya jirgas have reportedly been organized since the rise to power of the Hotak dynasty in the early 18th century. 

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Pakistan to pay for imported coal from Afghanistan in rupees

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has approved the import of coal from Afghanistan in rupees instead of US dollars, saying the move will help the country save precious foreign exchange.

Sharif on Monday chaired a meeting on improving the transportation system of coal imported from Afghanistan in the country, the Express Tribune reported.

He expressed deep concern over the rising price of coal on the international market, saying it was the main reason for generating expensive electricity from coal-fired power plants in the country.

“The coal imported from Afghanistan in rupee terms will not only generate cheap electricity but also help save the country’s precious foreign exchange,” Sharif said.

The prime minister was informed that import of coal from Afghanistan would save more than $2.2 billion annually.

Sharif also directed the Ministry of Railways to take all necessary steps to ensure prompt delivery of coal imported from Afghanistan to power plants.

The PM ordered the formation of a committee of all officials concerned headed by the defence minister to expedite the import process.

Esmatullah Burhan, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, told a press conference on Tuesday that Pakistan was a good market for coal exports, which should not be lost.

He said that revenue from coal exports under IEA rule were far higher than under the last government.

Ahmad Wali Haqmal, finance ministry spokesman, said tax on coal exports was increased to 30% from 20%.

The official said that until now coal was being sold at $90 per ton, but from now on it will be sold at $200 per ton.

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