News - Afghanistan
Written by Shakeela Ahbrimkhail   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 18:42

A conference titled "National Agenda" convened on Wednesday in Kabul, where participants focused on the importance of the formation of the "national unity government" called for by the agreement made between the two presidential candidates last week.

The gathering asked the two candidates, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah to reach an agreement over the principles and legal framework for the formation of a national unity government. The participants also said that the candidates must accept that it will require concessions from both sides.

"If you {candidates} agree on the principle and framework of national unity government without considering who is the president, confidently, this model could decrease the electoral tensions and it lead to the success of the process," National Agenda founder Wali Massoud said. "It is a good opportunity to Afghan politicians, God for bid, if the opportunity is missed, then we do not know what direction the crisis will move in."

In attendance at the conference, a number political analysts argued the national unity government plan would be the only way to ensure a smooth transition and bridge the divide between the candidates and their supporters.

"National unity government doesn't mean coalition government or seat adjustment between the two sides, the national government is a way out of the crisis," Hamid Mubarez said.

The candidates had representatives at the conference as well. Abdullah's spokesman said his team is committed to forming a national unity government even if they win the election. He also said negotiations over the agreement are ongoing, but will be completed before results are announced.

"With consideration of text of the agreement, all issues pertaining to national unity government have been discussed generally, so the two teams need to conduct negotiations on that before the election results, details of the agreement must be endorsed by the two sides," said Alimi Balkhi, a member of Abdullah's camp.

Meanwhile, Ashraf Ghani's camp questioned the motivations behind foreign involvement in the election process.

"After this, there shouldn't be a need for Iran, Pakistan and the U.S. to come and intervene, we aren't sold to America so they can come and say that this is right and this not," Ghani camp representative Safia Sediqi said. "They supported us, but should have supported us rightly. There is the possibility that ongoing conflicts are also the work of the foreigners, who do not want to see a better government in Afghanistan and see people breathe in peace."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came to Kabul last week to meet with the two candidates and try to resolve the disputes that risked derailing the election process.

Kerry's meetings resulted in an agreement that called for the establishment of a chief executive post with the authorities of the prime minister on the basis of presidential decree; the establishment of an opposition seat on the order of the president; the designation of chief executive and leader of the opposition by the losing candidate; equal power sharing between winning candidate and opposition leader; the holding of constitution amendment Loya Jirga within two years of the election; and the implementation of reforms in election management bodies.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 19:07
News - Afghanistan
Written by Karim Amini   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 18:30

Afghan intelligence officials have maintained that the recent offensive of the Pakistani military to combat insurgents and terrorist groups in the border regions near Afghanistan has failed to disrupt militant activities and served as nothing more than a publicity ploy for Islamabad.

The Pakistani began operations in Northern Waziristan last month that it touted as a striking major blows to terrorist groups in the area that had been launching attacks around Pakistan, but also across the border in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have made commitments to the international community, especially to Afghanistan and the United States, to uproot all terrorist groups from its soil.

However, according to the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Pakistani military operations were far less effectual than Islamabad suggested.

"Reports indicate that many terrorist training centers were moved to Peshawar and even Islamabad, the real terrorist cell of Haqqani Network was transported through 150 vehicles with some ammunition from Miranshah to Tal and Spin Tal of Kurram Agency," NDS spokesman Hassib Sediqi said.

The Haqqani Network is one of the most active terrorist groups in the region, and particularly in Afghanistan. The group is thought to have been responsible for the recent attacks in Urgoon and at the Kabul International Airport.

Last week, while speaking at the Congress, U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan also questioned whether the Pakistani operations were sufficient. For years, Afghan officials have asked Washington to put pressure on Pakistan to crackdown on militants within its borders and try to help move peace talks with the Taliban forward.

"The international community must know that Pakistan has not brought any changes to its policy against terrorism, and is acting against the will of the international community," Sediqi said. "We do not see any honesty in the words and actions of Pakistan - Pakistan is the cause of all insecurities in the region."

Tensions between Islamabad and Kabul have simmered for years, occasionally reaching a full boil, often over issues related to Pakistan's handling of insurgents and terrorists within its borders. Afghan officials have long accused the government in Islamabad of protecting and supporting militants in secret while disingenuously denouncing them in public.

"Afghanistan has the right to complain to the United Nation, so that all the cells that threaten Afghanistan are destroyed, and all the insecurities are prevented," political analyst Khalil Roman said.

But, assuming Afghan suspicions are right, and Pakistan remains a state-sponsor of terrorism, the question remains: why? Leaders in Kabul and international experts have maintained Islamabad uses the militants as a way of influencing the affairs of its neighboring countries.

That is why MP Muhammad Abda, like others, believes security problems between Afghanistan and Pakistan will not be put to rest until other issues between the two countries are. "The terrorism problem will not be solved between Afghanistan and Pakistan until other problems are solved."

News - Afghanistan
Written by Saleha Soadat   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 18:21

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Wednesday announced that the auditing process has been halted, for a second time, because of disputes between the candidates' observers that took place on Tuesday afternoon.

The process was first halted on Saturday of the same week.

"The process stopped as a result of disputes between the presidential campaigns teams," IEC Spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said.

According to presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's observing team, the United Nations (UN) and both campaign teams held joint meetings to resolve the disputes. The process is expected to begin again tomorrow.

"There were some disputes so the UN decided to stop the audit and resolve the problems first," Abdullah's team member, Wahid Omar, said.

Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's team member Daoud Sultanzoy added that the UN is to assign specific tasks to each observer.

"Every observer has his own role," Sultanzoy said. "The UN halted the process to determine the roles of each observer."

It is said that the process was halted over disagreements about the presence of Abdullah's foreign observers.

Ghani-Ahmadzai's team claimed that some of Abdullah's foreign observers did not have monitoring cards and were giving incorrect information to the UN until the security forces drove them out of the IEC compound.

Abdullah's team has rejected the allegations.

The UN has announced that the disagreements have already been resolved, stating that the process will resume tomorrow.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 18:26
News - Afghanistan
Written by Aazem Arash   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 18:08

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has transferred ballot boxes from a total of 15 provinces nationwide to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) central office in Kabul to undergo auditing, IEC officials said on Wednesday.

IEC officials add that ISAF is still operating countrywide in the movement of the ballot boxes from the provinces. Currently, boxes are being transported to Kabul from four additional provinces.

"Till now a total of 12,233 ballot boxes have arrived to the IEC's office," said IEC Spokesperson Noor Mohammad Noor. "These boxes belong to 15 provinces. The remaining boxes are arriving as well."

In a statement ISAF stated that the election commission and the presidential candidates' observers are strictly overseeing the process of the transfers.

"The most important thing to remember is that election materials are moved under strict chain of custody requirements, which includes eyes-on by IEC escorts at all times during the movement," the statement read.

After an agreement was made between the two presidential candidates upon the arrival and mediation of the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, ISAF is committed in assisting Afghanistan in the prolonged elections.

News - Afghanistan
Written by Sharif Amiri   
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 17:58

Disagreements over aspects of the criteria in regards to vote invalidation will be resolved Wednesday said and presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai's campaign spokesman, Tahir Zuhair, on Wednesday.

"The auditing conducted in the past few days is conclusive; everything has been conducted within the legal frameworks at place," Zuhair said. "The two electoral camps will finalize the vote invalidation criteria today."

Ghani-Ahmadzai and opponent Abdullah Abdullah's teams have held several rounds of discussions but did not reach a conclusive agreement on the criteria for the auditing process.

Reports indicate that majority of the disagreements are surrounded by the following controversial conditions:

1) Votes should be invalidated if the number of votes in a center is not consistent with the number of voters registered.

2) Votes should be invalidated if the registered numbers are repetitive.

Abdullah's camp has stressed that it is important to finalize the criteria so that the auditing process continues to move forward.

"There is no choice except to finalize the criteria," Fazel Ahmad Manavi, who is in charge of the technical negotiations in Abdullah's camp, said. "There are some disputed points, but I am confident that we will reach an agreement and the document will be finalized."

The recent negotiations between the technical teams of the two candidates come 11 days after the candidates reached an agreement on the overall auditing process. If the issue is not resolved, the current disagreements could potentially lead to questioning the legitimacy of the entire auditing process.

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