Officials from the Afghan power supply company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherka (DABS) on Wednesday said that within one month work on the 4th turbine at Naghlo power dam would be complete and that the dam’s power generating capacity would increase to 100 megawatts, Tolonews reported.
DABS said that a Russian company, Entarow, is helping to repair the badly damaged turbines and that repair work would soon start on the third turbine.
Meanwhile World Bank (WB) officials who fund the project have expressed satisfaction over the progress made on the project. The work on the project started in 2012.
World Bank officials described the renovation of the turbines as a great achievement for expanding Afghanistan’s power infrastructure.
According to World Bank officials, once the project is complete, 40 villages will be provided with electricity in Surobi district of Kabul and Kapisa province.
Currently Naghlo dam has the capacity of generating 75 megawatts of power.
“The turbine which was renovated and then put into operation was totally damaged, we renovated it completely, but some parts of another turbine had problems, we have purchased these parts from Moscow,” said DABS spokesman Wahidullah Waisi.
Meanwhile economic experts say government must develop the power infrastructure in the country in order to end Afghanistan’s reliance on imported electricity.
“With four turbines we will be able to generate 100 megawatts and this is a step forward towards sustainable energy generation. This will largely meet the needs of Kabul for power,” said economic analyst Sayed Massoud.
According to DABS, Afghanistan has the capacity to produce 125,000 megawatts of thermal and hydro power electricity, but currently produces only 20 percent of this in hydro power.
Afghanistan needs 7,000 megawatts of power and currently Naghlo Dam in Surobi district of Kabul produces 75 megawatts, Salma Dam in Herat province produces 40 megawatts and Kajaki Dam in Helmand province produces 51 megawatts. But plans are in place for Bagh Dara Dam in Kapisa and Parwan dam to produce an additional 280 megawatts of power over the next five years.
World Bank (WB) is providing $6.6 million in aid to the Afghan government to reconstruct the turbines at Naghlo dam. The contract for the reconstruction project was signed with a Russian company.
Some members of the Wolesi Jirga say those opposing the electronic national identity cards (e-NICs) have no right to run for elections.
This comes after some lawmakers, including Abdul Latif Paddram, opposed the word Afghan in the e-NICs.
Munawar Shah Bahaduri, a public representative from Herat, said in Wednesday’s session: “Opponents of the process reserve no right under the constitution to contest the polls.”
He stressed possession of the e-NIC must be a condition for Wolesi Jirga and district councils candidate.
Amir Khan Yar, the second deputy speaker who chaired the session, called the word Afghan the identity of the nation. “One who doesn’t accept this cannot contest the upcoming elections.”
Based on the constitution, only Afghan nationals could run for Wolesi Jirga elections, he stressed.
The legislators asked the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) not to allow the candidates who opposed the word Afghan in e-NICs.
But Syed Hafizullah Hashimi, an IEC member, said: “Both paper ID cards and electronic ones are valid. If anything new is added to e-ID cards, then the procedure should be changed.”
Questions remain regarding the Afghan government’s ability to fully implement its anti-corruption strategy and other reforms, said a report by US Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released on Wednesday.
“While the strategy is a positive step, it has weaknesses and it does not meet some international standards and best practices,” the report said.
It said Kabul’s anti-graft strategy primarily focused on 15 "priority" ministries but had left ‘unclear’ the role of Afghanistan's largest ministry, the Ministry of Defense.
The audit said 58 percent (38 of 66) of the goals discussed in Afghanistan's anti-corruption strategy lacked corresponding benchmarks to evaluate implementation progress.
“37 percent (14 of 38) of the benchmarks in the strategy are without corresponding goals, making it unclear how the completion of these benchmarks will advance the government's anti-corruption goals.”
However, the report said the Afghan government had made some progress in combating corruption within its government, but it was unlikely that lasting change would be realized until the government committed to fighting corruption without reservations.
“If the Afghan government continues not to take action against public officials who violate internal codes of ethics, while simultaneously failing to protect reformers and whistleblowers from reprisal, a climate of corruption will endure.”
The SIGAR audit identified five major challenges that continued to limit the Afghan government's ability to combat corruption: -- Key anti-corruption institutions such as the Anti Corruption Justice Center (ACJC) and Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) lack the capacity, resources, or security they need to perform their functions.
Despite efforts by the Afghan government to clarify the law, Afghan officials have differing opinions about when the MCTF's detective role ends and when the Attorney General's Office's (AGO) investigation role begins, which has led to recurring conflict between these two organizations.
Afghanistan's law enforcement and judiciary often avoid investigating, prosecuting, and punishing powerful individuals.
Unqualified and potentially corrupt actors continue to operate in key Afghan anti-corruption institutions.
US, international and Afghan officials all expressed skepticism about Parliament's willingness to support anti-corruption reforms.
President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced a ceasefire with the Taliban after religious scholars’ gathering in Kabul on Monday where they issued fatwa against the ongoing war in the country.
“With the ceasefire announcement, we epitomize the strength of the Afghan government and the will of the people for a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict,” Ghani said in a video message aired live on the Presidential Palace Facebook page.
“This ceasefire is an opportunity for the Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not wining them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause," Ghani said.
“The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan announces ceasefire from the 27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-ul-Fitr following the historic ruling (Fatwa) of the Afghan Ulema," he added.
On Monday more than 2,000 Afghan religious scholars from around the country issued a fatwa, an Islamic directive, saying “the ongoing war in Afghanistan is forbidden under the Islamic law”.
For years, Afghanistan has been plagued by violence waged by militants, who often use suicide bombers and claim that their struggle is a holy war to impose Islamic rule.
“We the scholars of Afghanistan declare this war as unjust and in contradiction to the Sharia (Islamic law). Only the blood of Muslims is shed in this war and nothing else, therefore we issue a fatwa to end this war as soon as possible,” said religious scholar Khuda Bakkhsh Mohseni while reading the declaration.
“We call on the warring factions to announce a ceasefire,” said Enayatullah Baligh, a religious scholar.
Meanwhile, the religious scholars repeated their call on the Taliban to accept the Afghan government’s “unconditional” peace offer.
“We the religious scholars call on the Taliban to give a positive response to the Afghan government’s peace offer in order to prevent further bloodshed,” the religious scholars said.
At the end of the gathering, a suicide bomber targeted the gathering where 14 people were killed and 17 others wounded.The attack happened when the scholars were leaving the gathering.
At the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, a group of eight young men set off in Helmand province for a 600-kilometer march to the capital, Kabul, to press for peace. Like other Muslims observing Ramadan around the world, the men abstained from food and drink from dawn to dusk, which made their walk more grueling.
About 400 kilometers into the march, the group grew from eight to 59 men trekking through villages calling for a cease-fire in the long-running war against Taliban insurgents. By this week the march had grown to about 200 activists chanting in Pashto: "Zhwand che mo badrang day, jang dai jang dai" — "That our lives are ugly is because of the war."
The scene has become a common sight in Afghanistan, as a war-weary public increasingly becomes more vocal in its disapproval of the war, often turning to social media, including Facebook and YouTube, to plead for peace.
"While it has been more than 40 years of war, the differences between each phase of the war, with the changing nature of foreign patrons and Afghan forces, has made it more complicated for Afghans across different geographic, ethnic and political divides to see a common bond, a shared recognition that all sides have suffered and need to find better way forward," said Patricia Gossman, Afghanistan senior researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"I think that may be happening now," she told VOA.
The peace activists initially appeared to target the Taliban, who have been fighting the United States and Afghan government forces for nearly 17 years. But marchers have also included a highly sensitive item on their list of demands — a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign military forces, based on an agreement between warring parties.
So far, the sporadic and rudderless activism has not received a serious response from any of the warring parties, as each blames the other for the continuous war.
Taliban spokesman Qari Qusuf Ahmadi said the activists should direct their demands toward US forces. Washington insists that the door is open for the insurgents to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government. The Afghan government has offered unconditional peace talks to the Taliban, but the group has turned down the offer.
"The marchers from Helmand seem to represent a genuine, local grassroots activism," Gossman said. "Different people may try to co-opt it, or try to misrepresent it as taking one side or the other, but it seems to me that these are people who have lost a lot to this war — to suicide bombings and airstrikes both — and are tired of losing their children to war," she said.
A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said there are no plans to officially welcome the peace marchers when they arrive in Kabul later this month.
Sayed Ihsan Tahiry, a spokesman for the country’s High Peace Council, said council officials will "be available to meet them, if they want."
Among their demands, the peace marchers have listed meetings with civil rights activists, politicians, government officials and foreign diplomats. They will not meet with Taliban or Islamic State officials.
Members of provincial council and local residents in Paktia say Taliban have closed 22 schools in the province.
Mohammad Rahman Qaderi, a member of provincial council, said that the Taliban had shut down the schools in Ahmad Aba and Sayed Karam districts of the province.
According to Qaderi, the Taliban warned that these schools would remain closed unless the government constructs new buildings for the schools.
“We urge [the government] to build schools. The children are setting in schools with broken doors and windows, it is an issue,” a tribal elder in the province said.
Abdullah Hasrat, the provincial governor’s spokesman, however, said that they had not received reports in this regard, adding that the government would construct buildings for some of the schools in the province.
This comes as, since last two years, 14 girls schools have been closed in Zurmat district of the province which according to local officials, efforts are underway to open the schools with the mediation of tribal elders.
Insecurity is the main impediment to Chinese private sector’s investment in Afghanistan, says the new ambassador of the neighboring country.
If the security situation improved, China’s private sector would invest in Afghanistan, the diplomat said during a meeting with Vice-President Sarwar Danish.
The envoy promised China’s continued support for the national unity government, stressing the need for bolstering bilateral relations in different fields.
Danish called China’s role in ensuring peace and cementing economic ties effective. Relations between the two countries were growing, the VP noted.
At the upcoming Shanghai summit, political, issues like economic and regional cooperation would be discussed between leaders of both countries. He sounded optimistic about the summit’s outcome.
Despite different challenges, the government of Afghanistan was determined to hold parliamentary elections and the voter registration process was properly proceeding, he added.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned Monday’s suicide bomb attack outside a peace tent gathering of Muslim clerics in Kabul and backed their fatwa against suicide attacks, saying the culprits of the attack violated the tenets of Islam. The bomb killed 14 people, including seven clerics, and was the latest in a series of attacks that have underlined the deteriorating security ahead of parliamentary and district council elections set for Oct. 20.
“The attack that targeted the large gathering of clerics and religious scholars from across the country was in fact an attack against the heirs of the prophet of Islam and the values of Islam,” Ghani said in a video address, supporting the outlawing of suicide bombings.
“Unfortunately, the imposed war in Afghanistan every day takes lives of our innocent children.”
Islamic State, without providing evidence, claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Taliban, seeking to reimpose strict Islamic rule after their 2001 ouster by US-led forces, denied involvement, but blamed the “American process”.
More than 2,000 religious scholars from across the country met on Monday at the Loya Jirga (Grand Council) tent, denouncing years of conflict. They issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, outlawing suicide bombings and demanding that Taliban militants restore peace to allow foreign troops to leave.
A series of bombings in Kabul has killed dozens of people in recent months and shown no sign of easing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. There was an explosion near a girls’ school in the eastern province of Nangarhar early on Tuesday but no one was hurt, a provincial education official said. The school had announced two days off after receiving threats. Spreading violence by Taliban and other militant groups has forced many schools to close, undermining fragile gains in education for girls in a country where millions have never set foot in a classroom. Nearly half all children in Afghanistan are out of school due to conflict, poverty, child marriage and discrimination against girls, the number rising for the first time since 2002, humanitarian organizations said in a report on Sunday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview broadcasted on Monday, said he did not want to divide the European Union as he prepared to visit Austria in his first bilateral trip to a West European country in almost a year.
“We do not pursue the objective of dividing anything or anyone in the EU,” Putin told broadcaster ORF.
“We are far more interested in the EU being united and flourishing because the EU is our most important trading and economic partner.”
Putin, who has not made a bilateral visit to a West European country since he went to Finland last July, will meet government and business leaders in Austria in a trip which officially marks 50 years since the two countries’ energy firms Gazprom and OMV first signed a gas supply deal.
He will attend a business conference with envoys from both countries.
But the issue of EU sanctions, imposed on Russia because of its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, will weigh in any official talks he has.
Moscow’s ties with EU countries remain strained after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its involvement in Syria and eastern Ukraine and the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain. London has blamed the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter on Russia but Moscow has denied any involvement.
Austria’s coalition government of conservatives and the pro-Putin far right was in a minority of EU governments that did not expel any Russian diplomats over the Skripal case and Austria, despite its membership of the EU, points to its history of neutrality and its relatively warm relations with Russia.
Moscow wants the EU to lift sanctions, but the bloc has linked that to progress on the ground, which has not happened.
Austria, which takes over the rotating EU presidency in July, has said it wants to act as a bridge between east and west.
The leader of the far-right Freedom Party, which has a cooperation agreement with Putin’s United Russia party, called this weekend for sanctions to be lifted.
But Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his conservatives, who control Austria’s EU policy, have said Austria will toe the EU line.
“We decide pragmatically whether to cooperate with someone politically,” Putin said when asked in the interview about United Russia’s ties with far-right parties.
“We try to work with those who publicly express the wish themselves to work with us,” he added.
Qatar accused its giant neighbor Saudi Arabia of reckless behavior after a newspaper report that Riyadh had threatened military action if Doha installed a Russian air defense system.
Qatar’s foreign minister told Al Jazeera he did not think the Saudi threat - reportedly made in a letter to France - was serious. But he accused Riyadh of using the letter to try and create a “disturbance” in a region already rocked by a year-long stand-off between Doha and other powers.
France’s Le Monde newspaper reported on Saturday that Saudi King Salman had sent a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron expressing concern over talks between Doha and Moscow about Russian S-400 missile air defense systems.
The newspaper added that the king had said Saudi Arabia was ready to consider all measures, including military action.
“We are seeking formal confirmation from the French government (about the letter),” Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the English-language channel of Qatar-based Al Jazeera in an interview aired on Tuesday.
“There is no serious military threat out of this, but the way it is being used to justify or to create a disturbance in the region is just unacceptable,” he said. “There is no legitimate grievance behind this letter and threatening Qatar.”
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar a year ago, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the accusation and says the boycott is an attempt to impinge on its sovereignty.
The French president’s office and the Saudi government’s communications office have not responded to requests for comments on the newspaper report.
Qatar and Russia signed an agreement on military and technical cooperation last year. Qatar’s ambassador to Russia was quoted as saying in January that it was in talks to buy the Russian S-400 missile air defense systems.
Asked if Doha would go ahead with the deal, the foreign minister said: “Qatar made all the options open for its defense procurement, so we are seeking the best quality to defend our country and we have all the options open for this.”
Sheikh Mohammed described the Saudi move as “reckless behavior”.
Washington has strong alliances with both sides and fears the split among Sunni Muslim US allies could benefit Shi’ite Muslim Iran.
Qatar hosts Al Udeid Air Base, which is home to more than 11,000 US and coalition forces.