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Taliban would roll back Afghan women’s rights -U.S. intelligence report

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

The Taliban “would roll back much” of the progress made in Afghan women’s rights if the Islamist extremists regain national power, according to an assessment released on Tuesday by top U.S. intelligence analysts.

The U.S. National Intelligence Council report likely will reinforce fears that the Taliban will resume the harsh treatment that women and girls suffered under their 1996-2001 rule should the insurgents prevail in a full-blown civil war.

“The Taliban remains broadly consistent in its restrictive approach to women’s rights and would roll back much of the past two decades of progress if the group regains national power,” said the U.S. intelligence community’s top analytical body.

At the same time, the council’s “Sense of the Community Memorandum” said women’s rights likely would be threatened after the U.S.-led military coalition withdraws, a finding reflecting the conservative nature of Afghanistan’s male-dominated society.

“Progress (in women’s rights) probably owes more to external pressure than domestic support, suggesting it would be at risk after coalition withdrawal, even without Taliban efforts to reverse it,” the assessment said.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision last month to withdraw the last 2,500 U.S. troops – triggering a pullout of other foreign forces – is fueling fears Afghanistan could plunge into an all-out civil war that could return the Taliban to power.

Those concerns have been stoked by a deadlock in U.S.-backed peace talks, while the Taliban have intensified attacks on government forces after a missed May 1 deadline for the U.S. troop departure.

Before being ousted by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban imposed a harsh version of Islamic rule that included barring girls from school and women from working outside their homes and prohibiting them from being in public without a male relative.

Women who violated those rules often suffered humiliation and public beatings by the Taliban’s religious police.

The new report, however, noted that many of those practices have continued in government-controlled areas and “years of war have left millions of women maimed, widowed, impoverished and displaced.”

Gains made in women’s right have been touted as a major accomplishment during the 20 years that U.S.-led forces have been deployed, although mostly in urban centers.

The Biden administration has pledged to continue civilian assistance after U.S. troops depart, including to women’s programs. But it has warned that Afghanistan would suffer isolation and sanctions if it backslides on human rights.

A February 2020, U.S.-Taliban accord struck by the Trump administration specified a May 1 deadline for completion of a U.S. troop withdrawal from America’s longest war.

Biden, however, decided to complete the withdrawal before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States that triggered the U.S.-led invasion.

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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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