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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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Islamabad wants Beijing to talk to Kabul about terrorism, Pakistani minister says

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2024)

Islamabad would like Beijing to speak to Kabul about the issue of terrorism, Pakistan’s Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said.

Speaking in an interview with VOA released on Sunday, Iqbal said that Pakistan has concerns on certain groups that are operating out of Afghanistan and carrying out terrorism actions.

“The terrorists who committed the recent incident against Chinese workers also came from Afghanistan, so I think this is a cause of concern, and we also hope that China would also persuade Afghanistan because Afghans listen to the Chinese government in the region,” Iqbal said.

The official said that as a result of crises and conflicts over the last couple of decades in Afghanistan, Pakistan has not been able to invest in its infrastructure, and its economy has developed two major bottlenecks – energy blockage and infrastructure blockage.

Referring to Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan has an agreement with China to have a third country as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has previously rejected Pakistan’s allegations against Afghanistan over security incidents.

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Floods leave 18 dead, destroy hundreds of homes in Faryab

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2024)

At least 18 people have died and two others have been injured following floods in Faryab province on Saturday night, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation announced Sunday.

The flash floods occurred in Pashtunkot, Almar, Qaisar, Belcheragh, Khyber and Dawlat Abad districts, the ministry said in a statement.

560 houses, 850 acres of agricultural land, 110 shops and a mobile clinic were destroyed as a result of the floods, according to the statement.

In addition, 300 livestock perished and 2,000 fruit trees were destroyed, the statement said.

This comes just a week after deadly floods left over 300 people dead in northern Afghanistan.

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IEA leader approves law on prevention of begging

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2024)

The Ministry of Justice announced Saturday that Mawlawi Hebatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), has approved the law on collection of beggars and preventing begging.

The law has three chapters and 27 articles, and is published in the official gazette of the Ministry of Justice.

According to the law, begging is prohibited for healthy and working people and those who can secure their one-day meal.

The law also prohibits the use of children and the disabled for begging.

According to the law, professional beggars who use a child or a mentally ill person or a disabled person for the purpose of begging, will be sentenced to one month in prison by the court, and their organizers will be sentenced to up to six months in prison.

In 2022, the leader of the Islamic Emirate ordered the collection of beggars. Tens of thousands of beggars have been rounded up so far.

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