Amb. Zahid Nasrullah Khan on Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations

Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan has been marred by border disputes, proxy wars, and political disagreements ever since the country’s creation in 1947. But especially in recent years, the relationship has been on a downward spiral. Pakistan is accused of providing cover for the Taliban, which are relentlessly attacking Afghan and international targets. Similarly, Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of harboring anti-Pakistan insurgents and this has led the country to threaten Afghanistan with the expulsion of its sizable Afghan refugee population. Meanwhile, Afghans continue to call for international sanctions against Pakistan.

As violence grows, diplomatic efforts are underway to reconcile the two neighbors. Maija Liuhto spoke to Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Zahid Nasrullah Khan, in Kabul, about recent trends in the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship.

Read the interview here.

Advertisements

Afghanistan battles polio: Rumours, mistrust, and negotiating with the Taliban

Three-year-old Farid Ahmad teeters forward, his uncle hovering closely behind.

“He is so weak, mainly his hands and legs,” Abdul Jalil says, watching as the boy roams unsteadily inside the family’s compound here in Spin Boldak District, which stretches to the Pakistan border in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province. “Sometimes when he tries to walk, he falls down.”

This week, Afghan authorities launched a new round of polio immunisations – the second nationwide campaign this year. They hope to reach more than 9.9 million children across the country with oral vaccines before the start of the polio “high season” in the warmer summer months, when the virus is most infectious.

The front line of the push to wipe out polio runs through places like Kandahar. Here, hard-fought progress is fragile and easily jeopardised by mistrust, missed vaccinations, out-of-reach healthcare, a dearth of female healthcare workers, and pockets of insecurity – where access for vital immunisation programmes must be negotiated with militant groups like the Taliban.

Read the entire story here.

Afghanistan: Where home is a battlefield

Sitting on a plastic chair here at a UN-run reception centre in the dusty border town of Spin Boldak in Kandahar Province, Durkhane is among almost one million Afghans who have returned from Pakistan over the last three years. They’re coming home to a country mired in conflict, where aid for basic needs, jobs, and support for reintegration are in short supply.

Long a safe haven for Afghans fleeing instability, Pakistan has made it increasingly clear that the nearly 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees on its soil, as well as an estimated one million undocumented Afghans like Durkhane, are not welcome. Pakistan has set a 30 June deadline before identity cards allowing registered refugees to legally stay in the country will expire – the latest in a series of short-term extensions that has put Afghans and aid groups on edge.

 Read the entire story here.

Regional leaders are defying Afghanistan’s president. The latest is a police chief who was once a close U.S. ally

In early January, Abdul Raziq, the powerful police chief of Kandahar, issued a direct challenge to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Speaking to reporters, Raziq said Ghani’s government “cannot fire me.”

It was a typical show of strength by Raziq, a onetime favorite of U.S.-led coalition forces who rose to prominence because of his zeal in fighting Taliban insurgents. A survivor of multiple assassination attempts, he brought relative calm to his volatile southern province while dismissing accusations of torture and other human rights abuses.

But Raziq’s statement also highlighted the fault lines that have weakened Ghani’s Western-backed government.

 

Read the entire story here.

The lone female prosecutor in Kandahar risks her life daily fighting for women’s rights

Every morning, 28-year-old Zainab Fayez puts on a blue burkha and walks through multiple checkpoints to get to her heavily fortified office in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. Finally inside, she takes off the burkha but leaves a scarf on to cover her face and hair in the otherwise all-male office. Fayez is the first and only female prosecutor in the volatile province of Kandahar, working in the attorney general’s office of Kandahar’s appellate court.

In only two years, Fayez has fought more than 50 cases related to violence against women and has put 21 men behind bars in this conservative part of the country. On the day she’s visited by a reporter for Women in the World, two women have arrived to meet with her — a mother and her 18-year-old daughter, Nazia. They have come to file a complaint about Nazia’s violent husband who beats her.

Cases like Nazia’s land on Fayez’s desk daily. Seventeen years after the fall of the Taliban, an extremist regime particularly oppressive toward women, domestic violence is still common in Afghanistan, particularly in the conservative south.

Read the entire story here.

As war’s toll grows in Kabul, the dead fight for space with the living

The cemetery sits atop a hill, where the rugged walls of an ancient fortress partially surround nearly 250 acres of gravestones. Below, in a valley, is Old Kabul, the center of an expanding city of 5 million people.

 

Death is all too familiar here — in January alone, at least 174 people were killed in attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital. But an odd thing has happened at Shuhada-e-Saliheen, the city’s largest and perhaps oldest cemetery. As more people arrive from increasingly unsafe provinces in search of security and jobs, land has become so scarce that people have built houses in the cemetery. The dead, meanwhile, are turned away — there is no more room for them.

 

In Kabul, the dead must now fight for space with the living.

Read more here. 

Ylen Kabulissa haastattelema hazara-poliitikko arvostelee pakkopalautuksia Afganistaniin

KABUL

Hazarat ovat Afganistanin syrjityin ja vainotuin vähemmistö. Shiialaiset hazarat eroavat sunnilaisesta valtaväestöstä paitsi uskonnoltaan, myös ulkonäöltään.

Hazaroita on Afganistanin väestöstä eri arvioiden mukaan noin 9–20 prosenttia.

Tutkimusjärjestö Afghanistan Analysts Networkin mukaan iskut hazaroita kohtaan ovat kiihtyneet viime vuosina, kun Isis on alkanut pommittaa shiiakohteita Kabulissa.

Lue lisää täältä. 

This Afghan Cafe Was Forced to Ban Men. Now, It May Have to Close.

On a busy afternoon in Bamiyan, Central Afghanistan, men in turbans and skull caps are returning from their prayers to their shops in a bazaar, while just around the corner, fast-paced dance music is blazing from the loudspeakers of a café where young women sit, giggle and take photos of their sandwiches, kebabs, and salads.

Bamiyan Women’s Café, a project of a German NGO called HELP, has been serving food, coffee, and snacks to Afghan women for almost three years now. Opened in 2015, the café has since become more than just a place to grab a quick bite: It has turned into a popular venue for young women and girls who would otherwise struggle to find a safe space outside of their homes to spend their free time.

Read more here. 

The Walking Dead

It’s a warm day in Kandahar as we wait in the parking lot of the airport on the whim of the Afghan army. We are supposed to spend three days at the Kandahar air base, in one of the most violent provinces in Afghanistan, documenting the plight of injured Afghan soldiers. In the long struggle for Afghanistan, the men of the Afghan army have borne the brunt of the fighting. But it has been an uncertain road to get here, not least because the government is reluctant to admit the extent of its own losses. Citing troop morale, the Afghan government stopped releasing official numbers years ago.

In January, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which monitors the use of U.S. funds in Afghanistan, reported that a staggering 6,785 members of Afghan security forces had been killed and 11,777 injured in 2016. With an army of around 300,000 soldiers, the losses are unsustainable. Comparatively, only 10 U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan the same year. If the army were winning, these figures would be tragic but maybe justifiable. But the Taliban control more territory than at any point since 2001, and the drawdown of international troops has left Afghan forces practically alone in battle against an emboldened enemy…

Read the entire story here.

The coffin makers of Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan  In northern Kabul, a mausoleum overlooks a sprawling cemetery on the dusty hills below it. The mausoleum belongs to Marshal Fahim, a former Northern Alliance commander; the graves to the countless victims of the four decades of war this country has endured.

The dirt road leading to this cemetery in Sarai Shamali is lined with shops that engage in an increasingly profitable business: coffin-making.

Not too long ago, there was only one shop that sold coffins here. But today, the coffin makers have not only taken over most of the shops here, they have spread out into other parts of the city, as well. Death is now such a frequent occurrence in Kabul that coffin-making is one of the few thriving businesses.

Read the entire story here.