War-torn Afghanistan is preparing for the upcoming presidential election slated for Sept. 28 amid Taliban threats and persisting challenges.
Afghan Interior Ministry officials held a meeting on Monday to discuss election security as Taliban militants fighting the government has vowed to disrupt the process.
“This morning, I chaired our weekly planning and coordination meeting on elections’ security.
“We are entering into an important phase.
“So far, we have accomplished all planned security goals and we are ready and looking forward to Sept. 28,’’ Abdul-Moqim Abdulrahimzai, Director-General of Operations and Plans of the ministry, wrote on Twitter.
“Our particular focus is on our citizens’ protection.
“Thanks to all our partners for their tireless support,’’ he tweeted.
The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) have beefed up security operations against Taliban fighters recently as the militants launched massive attacks on cities and districts across the country.
The security forces have recaptured six districts from Taliban militants in northern Faryab, Takhar and Badakhshan provinces since Friday, in a bid to ensure security for the polls, Rohullah Ahmadzai, spokesman of the Defence Ministry, said.
The poll will be the fourth presidential election in Afghanistan since 2001 when U.S. troops invaded the country to oust the Taliban regime.
Taliban militants, who have vowed to derail the election termed the voting process as a “ploy of foreign invaders to continue their occupation of Afghanistan’’, calling upon people to boycott the poll.
The ANDSF will provide security for 4,942 out of 5,373 polling centres and the remaining 431 centres located in remote districts will not open on the Election Day due to militants’ presence, according to election officials.
Nearly all election materials have been shifted to 34 provincial capitals and transporting of materials are continuing from provincial centres to districts.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Election Commission (IEC) has taken measures to ensure transparency during the poll as the past Afghan elections were allegedly marred with widespread irregularities and fraud.
Election officials and workers will use biometric devices on Election Day to avoid multiple votes and identify people involved in fraud, according to an IEC statement.
“The IEC will implement anti-fraud measures during voting and tally operations, inspection and invalidation of votes, each polling station will have one biometric device with the related voter list.
“One additional device is available in the polling centre,’’ the statement said.
It added that “a QR code will be printed and stacked on the ballot papers.
“Without the code, the ballot paper will be considered invalid during counting process’’.
All polling staff will also be registered with biometric information, the statement noted.
A total of 18 contesters registered to run for the presidency with a five-year term and among the candidates are sitting President, Ashraf Ghani, and government Chief Executive. Abdullah Abdullah.
More than nine million eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots during the election period.
Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Roadside bomb blast kills 9 civilians in southern Afghanistan
The Afghan civilians continue to bear the brunt of armed conflicts as more than 3,400 civilians were killed and over 6,900 others injured in conflict-related incidents in 2019, according to the figures released by the UN mission in the country.
Out of the total casualties, more than 880 civilians were killed and over 3,450 others wounded in suicide and non-suicide IED explosions in 2019.
Roadside bomb kills 3 civilians, wounds 4 in Afghanistan’s Sari Pul province
According to the official, a mine planted by the armed insurgents on a road in Shiramha area outside provincial capital, the Sari Pul city struck a car, killing three civilians and injuring four others including three women.
Without providing more details, the official blamed the enemies of peace, a reference to the Taliban militants for organizing the roadside bombing, but armed outfit, which is active in parts of Sari Pul province has yet to claim responsibility.
Afghanistan’s COVID-19 positive cases rise to 16,509
Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry registered 759 COVID-19 positive cases over the past 24 hours, totaling the number of patients to 16,509 in the country, a spokesman for the ministry Tawhid Shakohmand said Tuesday.
According to the official, 266 positive cases have been confirmed in the capital city Kabul, 212 cases in Herat and the remaining 281 cases have been confirmed in other parts of the militancy-battered Afghanistan.
Shakohmand also said that five patients had died over the past 24 hours, bringing the number of COVID-19 related deaths to 270 since the eruption of the disease in February, while 22 patients have recovered over the period, totaling the number of recovered one to 1,450 since February.
1st Ld, Writethru: Roadside bomb kills 7 laborers, wounds 6 others in N. Afghanistan
“A total of 13 laborers were going from one place to another place in a Taliban-held area in Khan Abad district late Monday night but their vehicle ran over a mine leaving seven dead and injuring six others,” governor for Khan Abad district Hayatullah Amiri told Xinhua.
According to Amiri, the Taliban-planted mines on streets and roads in villages often claim the lives of civilians.
Taliban militants who are operational in parts of Kunduz province including the restive Khan Abad district have yet to make a comment.
Afghanistan reports 545 more COVID-19 cases
“Within the past 24 hours, 1,168 suspected cases were tested, out of which 545 cases were tested coronavirus positive in 18 provinces,” the ministry said in a statement.
The number of people recovered stands at 1,428 after 100 patients recovered during the period.
The ministry has conducted 39,628 tests since February, according to statistics of the public health ministry.
The statement urged Afghans to wear face masks in crowded places, practice physical distancing and keep personnel hygiene.
Afghanistan records 680 new COVID-19 cases
Afghanistan has recorded 680 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of patients infected with the disease to 15,205 in the country, spokesman of the Public Health Ministry Tawhid Shakohmand said Sunday.
According to the spokesman, eight patients have died due to the disease over the past 24 hours, totaling the number of COVID-19 related deaths to 257 since the outbreak of the disease in February in the country.
A total of 25 patients have recovered over the past 24 hours, bringing the number of recovered to 1,328 since February, he added.
Australian soldiers formally accused of war crimes in Afghanistan
Australian Special Forces soldiers have been formally accused of committing war crimes while serving in Afghanistan.
News Corp Australia reported recently that several troops have received notices from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) accusing them of breaching the laws of armed conflict in Afghanistan.
It comes four years after the IGADF launched an investigation into allegations that Special Forces personnel were involved in unlawful killings in Afghanistan.
The notices advise recipients that the IGADF intends to make adverse findings against them, giving them several weeks to respond to the allegations before the report is handed to Angus Campbell, the Chief of the Defence Force, in July.
The final report will make recommendations on what actions should be taken against the accused men, including possible criminal proceedings, as well as recommendations about the culture of the Special Forces.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is conducting a separate investigation into alleged war crimes committed by two Special Forces soldiers, one of who is known only as “Soldier C” while the other is Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed on Wednesday that Soldier C is under investigation for killing an unarmed intellectually disabled Afghan man known only as Ziauddin in 2012.
It is the second killing Soldier C has been implicated in after the ABC in March broadcast helmet camera footage of the soldier – who has since been stood down by the ADF – shooting a different unarmed Afghan man three times while he cowered on the ground.
Afghanistan reports highest daily increase of COVID-19 cases, 14,525 in total
Afghanistan on Saturday reported 866 new COVID-19 cases within the past 24 hours, the biggest daily increase since the outbreak of the pandemic in February, the country’s Ministry of Public Health confirmed.
“A total of 1,425 tests were conducted within the past 24 hours, and 866 cases were tested positive COVID-19,” the ministry said in a statement.
Three people died and 44 recovered from the infectious disease during the period, according to the statement.
The latest deaths have brought to 249 the total fatalities while the number of people recovered stands at 1,303.
The ministry has conducted 37,384 tests since February, according to statistic of the public health ministry.
The statement urged Afghans to wear face masks in crowded places, practice physical distancing and keep personnel hygiene.
Gwadar port to boost Pakistan-Afghanistan trade: Afghan envoy
Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Atif Mashal on Friday said Pakistan’s decision to allow Afghan traders to import goods via the Gwadar port in southwestern Balochistan province will boost bilateral trade and transit ties between the two countries.
Mashal’s comments came following the arrival of a cargo ship, carrying 16,000 tons urea for transit to Afghanistan at the Gwadar port, according to China Overseas Port Holding Company which operates the Gwadar port, and Abdul Razak Dawood, advisor to Pakistani prime minister on commerce, textile, industry and production, and investment.
Pakistan last month announced to allow import of the Afghan bulk cargo of wheat, sugar and fertilizers at the Gwadar port and onward transit to Afghanistan in sealable trucks, instead of being limited to containers.
“For the first time, bagging will be done locally instead of foreign ports. Urea will be bagged and shipped on trucks to Afghanistan at Gwadar, which will generate employment for the locals. Instructions have already been passed to allocate all labor jobs to local population,” Dawood said on Twitter on Friday.
The Afghan ambassador welcomed Pakistan’s decision and appreciated efforts by the Pakistani advisor.
“This will certainly have a positive impact on Afghanistan-Pak trade and transit ties. We must extend support to each other for revival of commerce and connectivity in Central and South Asia that will surely benefit people in the region,” Mashal said in a tweet.
Pakistan announced in October last year to open the Gwadar port for the Afghan transit trade as the trade related infrastructure at the port was already to handle bulk cargoes to and from Afghanistan. The first ship carrying containers for Afghan transit trade arrived at the Gwadar port on Jan. 14, 2020.
Pakistan and landlocked Afghanistan had signed a transit trade agreement in 1965 that was revised in 2010, which calls for better facilitation in the movement of goods between the two countries.
Afghan traders would previously use ports in Karachi, the commercial hub of Pakistan, for import under the transit trade agreement.
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