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World Bank to push ahead with some Afghan projects

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(Last Updated On: April 20, 2022)

The World Bank has resumed work on three projects in Afghanistan focused on health, agriculture and livelihoods, but will maintain a hold on some $150 million for education projects, two sources familiar with the decision said Tuesday.

The multilateral development bank had put all four projects, valued at around $600 million, on hold in late March, citing its deep concerns over the Islamic Emirate’s ban on girls attending public high school.

Group of Seven partners and other major donors to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) will meet to discuss the country’s mounting economic and food security problems on Friday during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the U.S. Treasury announced on Monday.

Some multilateral organizations, including the IMF, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Islamic Development Bank, will also take part, one of the sources said.

When it halted work on the four programs, the World Bank noted that its policies required all ARTF-financed activities to support access to – and equity of services for – women and girls in Afghanistan.

Officials decided to “resume preparations” for the three non-education projects, valued at around $450 million, given the deepening economic crisis in Afghanistan worsened by rising food and energy prices triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine, one of the sources said.

Russia calls its actions “a special military operation.”

The World Bank last week issued a dire outlook for Afghanistan’s economy, noting that per capita income had fallen by over a third in the last four months of 2021 following the seizure of power by the Islamic Emirate (IE) as U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew.

It said around 37% of Afghan households did not have enough money to cover food while 33% could afford food but nothing more.

When it agreed to free up ARTF funds for new projects to be implemented by U.N. agencies, the World Bank had stipulated that it expected a “strong focus on ensuring that girls and women participate and benefit from the support.”

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has unraveled gains in rights made by women during the last two decades, including restricting them from working and limiting their travel unless accompanied by a close male relative. Most girls were also barred from going to public school beyond seventh grade.

Business

IEA delegation in Uzbekistan for talks on expanding economic ties

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

Leading a delegation of officials, Acting Minister of Industry and Commerce Nooruddin Azizi left for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, on Saturday and will meet with Uzbek authorities to discuss the expansion of trade, facilitating transit and solving problems of Afghan businessmen.

A number of businessmen and investors are also accompany Azizi on this trip. 

These businessmen say that they plan to discuss joint ventures with Uzbek businessmen.

While relations between Kabul and Tashkent have improved, the hope is that economic ties can be strengthened. 

According to Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Investment (ACCI) officials, the annual trade volume between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan totals $400 million but, they say, there is huge potential to expand these relations.

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Business

Pakistan to issue six-month multiple entry visas to Afghan truck drivers

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed authorities to issue six-month multiple entry visas to truck drivers from Afghanistan, it was reported Wednesday.

Initially, multiple entry visas will be issued for a period of six months, and later it could be extended to period of one year, Pakistan’s The News reported.

Documents required with the visa application will include the applicant’s photograph, passport, registration as a transport company, and employment letter.

The move is aimed at promoting trade with Afghanistan.

Moreover, for the promotion of ease of doing business, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Board of Investment will link the online visa system with online payments.

“We need to remove all hurdles for Afghans in order to help them and to provide them a conducive environment to invest in Pakistan…,” Sharif said, noting that a policy in this regard would be formulated within two weeks.

This comes a day after Pakistan’s PM ordered import of coal from Afghanistan to be paid in rupees.

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IEA calls for release of frozen funds following deadly earthquake

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

Afghanistan’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has called on international governments to roll back sanctions and lift a freeze on central bank assets following the earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people and left thousands homeless.

The 6.1-magnitude quake that struck the east of the country early on Wednesday destroyed or damaged 10,000 homes and injured about 2,000 people.

“The Islamic Emirate is asking the world to give the Afghans their most basic right, which is their right to life and that is through lifting the sanctions and unfreezing our assets and also giving assistance,” Abdul Qahar Balkhi, foreign affairs ministry spokesman, told Reuters in an interview.

While humanitarian aid continues to flow to Afghanistan, funds needed for longer-term development were halted when the IEA seized control of the country in August 2021 as foreign forces withdrew.

Billions of U.S. dollars in Afghan central bank reserves remain frozen overseas and sanctions hamper the banking sector as the West pushes for concessions on human rights.

Western governments are particularly concerned about the rights of women and girls to work under IEArule.

Asked about the issue, Balkhi said Afghans’ right to life-saving funds should be the priority, adding that the international community handled concerns over human rights differently depending on the country involved.

“Is this rule universal? Because the United States just passed an anti-abortion law,” Balkhi said, referring to the Supreme Court’s overturning on Friday of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that recognised a woman’s right to an abortion.

“Sixteen countries in the world have taken away the rights of religious minorities, especially Muslims … are they also facing sanctions because they are violating rights?,” he asked.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Saturday the U.S. government was working on “complicated questions about the use of these (frozen central bank) funds to ensure they benefit the people of Afghanistan and not the Taliban (IEA).”

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