Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani Mulki submitted his resignation to King Abdullah on Monday, an official source said, to soothe widespread anger over economic policies that have sparked the largest protests in several years and dozens of arrests.
Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of the capital Amman and main provincial towns again on Sunday, extending days of protests that have shaken Jordan, a staunch US ally that has remained stable through years of turmoil in the region.
Police chief Major General Fadel al-Hamoud said security forces had detained 60 people for breaking the law during the protests and 42 security force members had been injured, but protests remained under control.
“Rest assured, Jordan is a safe and secure country, and things are under control,” said Major General Hussein Hawatmeh, head of the Gendarmerie security department, appearing along with Hamoud at a news conference.
Public anger has grown over government policies since a steep general sales tax hike earlier this year and the abolition of bread subsidies, both measures driven by the International Monetary Fund.
Political sources earlier said Abdullah had summoned Mulki for an audience in the king’s palace.
In a sign the tax hikes could be shelved, the Petra news agency, citing the speaker of parliament, said lawmakers were on course to ask the king’s permission to hold an exceptional session, with a majority demanding the changes be withdrawn.
Mulki, a business-friendly politician, was appointed in May 2016 and given the responsibility of reviving a sluggish economy and business sentiment hit by regional turmoil. The tax increases have caused his popularity to plummet.
The protests, the biggest in Jordan in years, widened on Saturday after Mulki refused to scrap a bill increasing personal and corporate taxes, saying it was up to parliament to decide.
Demonstrators who converged near the Cabinet office said they would disband only if the government rescinded the tax bill it sent to parliament last month.
“The government has made us penniless ... they have left us with no more money in our pockets,” chanted protesters.
Unions representing tens of thousands of employees in both the public and private sectors have also called for a general strike on Wednesday after their demands for the bill to be scrapped were rejected by the government.
The government says it needs more funds for public services and argues that the tax changes reduce social disparities by placing a heavier burden on high earners. Opponents say a tough IMF-imposed fiscal consolidation plan has worsened the plight of poorer Jordanians and squeezed the middle class.
Jordan’s economy has struggled to grow in the past few years in the face of chronic deficits, as private foreign capital and aid flows have declined.
Protesters also criticize politicians for squandering public funds and corruption.
“Our demands are legitimate. No, no to corruption,” chanted the demonstrators urging King Abdullah, who is seen as a unifying force, to intervene and crack down on official graft.
Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed political ructions in the United States for difficulties in arranging a summit with President Donald Trump, in remarks broadcast on Monday.
Trump said in March the two leaders would meet soon. But since then already fragile ties between Washington and Moscow have been strained further by the conflict in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
Putin said last month the proposed summit was beset by problems and was not working out for now.
Asked by Austrian broadcaster ORF why it was taking so long to arrange, he said: “You have to ask our colleagues in the USA. In my view it is the consequence of the fierce domestic political contest in the United States.”
Putin, who gave ORF an interview ahead of a visit to Austria on Tuesday, did not elaborate.
Trump is under pressure from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 US election and whether there was collusion with Trump’s campaign - something both he and Moscow deny.
“In one of our last discussions, Donald said he is concerned about the danger of a new arms race. I agree with him entirely,” Putin said in a short extract released ahead of the full interview, to be broadcast on Monday evening.
Apart from mentioning the US withdrawal in 2002 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Putin did not elaborate.
Trump made a similarly vague reference to the issue in April, when he said “Stop the arms race?” in a tweet that also mentioned providing “help” for the Russian economy.
A number of Afghan lawmakers on Monday criticized the government over its failure to establish a transparent collection system for the revenues earned from 10 percent telecom tax on mobile phone users, saying the amount of money being stolen by certain individuals, Aria News reported.
The members of Wolesi Jirga or Lower House of the parliament said some elements within the government were trying to halt the plan of activating a transparent collection system.
“The issue of having [collection] system started by the Ministry of Telecommunication three years ago, but the issue is politicized and some individuals don’t want this system to be activated because the tax money being shared to many people,” said Qais Hassan, head of parliament’s Telecommunication and Transportation Commission.
Meanwhile, MP Makhdom Abdal Mohammadi said that it had been six months since the promises were made to activate the system for collection of telecom tax, but the plan had not been implemented so far.
The Minister of Telecommunication, Shahzad Gul Aroubi, however, said that the amount of money earned via telecom tax is being transferred to the central bank. “No authority has access to telecom tax. We are making efforts to create a transparent collection system and some companies are volunteers in this regard,” he said.
This criticism came after the house summoned the telecommunication minister Aroubi over the issue.
Education, like many other areas in which Afghanistan has had achievements in the about last two decades, is also going into reverse. Not only there have not been any efforts to improve the quality of education, quantity is also slumping.
A new report published by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) paints a grim picture of education in Afghanistan. Published on Sunday, the report has found that nearly half of Afghan children are out of school. These are the children between the age of 7 and 17, who should otherwise be going to school. Girls make up 60 percent of those who have been denied education and 85 percent of girls in Kandahar, Helmand, Wardak, Paktika, Zabul and Uruzgan are out of school. Insecurity has been identified as the main obstacle, but other factors such as displacement, child marriage, and a lack of female teachers and school facilities are found to have also restricted children’s access to education.
The present status of education is a big threat to the future of Afghanistan. It can pose a big challenge for the future when half of the children of a country are deprived of schooling. Today, besides other factors, the low level and quality of education is viewed as the culprit of the ongoing war in the country. Since about two-third of Afghan people are not educated and cannot realize the conspiracies of Afghanistan’s enemies, different sides can use them against their own country and people. This is the very problem that has given foreign countries the chance to turn Afghanistan into a theater of thier proxy wars.
In view of its significance, education should be a top priority for Afghanistan. The government should work in conjunction with the international community to provide the out-of-school children with the opportunity to go to school. Public awareness campaigns can prove effective thereof, but cannot resolve the problem if educational opportunities are not provided. If there is, for example, no school, no awareness campaign can encourage children to go to school. In addition to Afghan government, the militants should also work for the goal. The anti-government elements, especially the Taliban who apparently reject having any opposition to schooling, should allow schools in areas under their control.
Three individuals were detained on charges of putting stickers on 21 fake identity cards in central Parwan province on Monday, an official said.
The voter registration process for the October 20 parliamentary elections kicked off on April 14 in all provincial capitals across the country.
Waheeda Shahkar, the governor spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News the three people had brought fake ID cards to a voter registration center in Bagram district.
They were arrested by police personnel with the cooperation of National Directorate of security (NDS) agents on Monday morning.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) chief for Parwan, Abdul Qahir Wahab Safi, confirmed the incident and said so far 20 people had been held for the same crime.
A private oil refinery company started functioning in western Nimroz province at the cost of nearly $three million.
“One of the top priorities of the National Unity Government (NUG) was to strengthen the private sector,” said Governor Mohammad Sami at the launching ceremony of Attae Filter Press.
He added the establishment of oil refinery would help provide jobs for local people and the NUG would further strive to support private sector investment in the future.
Provincial Council Head Mohammad Nasir hoped the government would pay attention to the development of private sector and increase its support to them.
Mohammad Musa Hotak, presidential advisor in tribal affairs, termed security important for attracting investment and hailed the efforts of local officials in this regard.
Attae Filter Press Head Mirwais Attai said the firm created with nearly $3 million investment which has the capability to refine 11 tankers of oil per day and three Engineers among 32 employees would work in the company.
The firms started working at a time where most time complains raised about the low quality of petroleum production in Nimroz province.
Najibullah Siddiqui, head of oil products in Nimroz province, also confirmed that in Nimroz customs, there was no government laboratory that examines the quality of petroleum products, and there is only one contracting laboratory that does not properly control oil products.
He said during the past three months they have rejected 450 low quality tankers petroleum.
Afghanistan’s Ulema fatwa regarding ongoing conflict would be shared with Pakistani Ulema during a joint meeting in which around 500 Ulema from both countries would be participating, reliable sources said on Monday.
After the meeting of Afghan and Pakistani Ulema another global conference of Ulema would be arranged in July in the holy city of Mecca in which 120 Ulema from 36 countries would take part, sources at the High Peace Council (HPC) and Ulema Council said.
During the Mecca Conference Ulema from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would issue a joint fatwa regarding ongoing conflict in the war-torn country.
According to another source, Saudi Arabia had been striving to provide ground for the participation of Taliban delegation in the Mecca Conference.
The source added that some Afghan ulema had established contacts with the Taliban in order to share the fatwa with them and invite them for discussion.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sibghatullah Ahmadi told Pajhwok Afghan News the government was in contact with the global Ulma to persuade them to issue fatwa regarding the ongoing illegal conflict in Afghanistan.
He hoped consensus on Afghan war would be developed in other countries and Ulema would give a unanimous fatwa on Afghan conflict.
Ahmadi said Ulma in Afghanistan considered the ongoing conflict illegal.
Around 3000 Afghan religious scholars on Monday termed the ongoing conflict and suicide bombing in the country unlawful.
After the fatwa of Afghan Ulema, Pakistani and Afghan Ulema would deliver a joint fatwa and in the third stage the Ulema from around the world would join Afghan and Pakistani Ulem and would issue fatwa regarding the nature of legitimacy of war in Afghanistan.
Last month during the Indonesia Ulema Conference it was decided that Afghan Ulema should issue fatwa regarding ongoing conflict in the county.
Pakistani Ulema had already issued similar fatwa. Around 2,000 Pakistani Ulema back in January 2018 had issued a fatwa and called suicide attacks unlawful.
Suicide attack near Loya Jirga Tent in Kabul on Monday killed 14 people and wounded 17 others. The attack took place when participants of a huge gathering of Ulema to denounce violence and war in the country were leaving the meeting. Police said the assailant walked near the entrance and blew himself up inside the people.
Citing security sources, Tolonews reported that 14 people mostly religious scholars were killed and 17 others were wounded.
The deadly attack came just hours after the participants issued a verdict against the ongoing war, especially suicide attacks which usually inflict casualties on civilians beside Afghan forces. They also called on Taliban to accept President Ghani’s unconditional peace offer.
The major military opposition of the Afghan government Taliban denied involvement in the incident. Spokesman of the group Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the attack had nothing to do with them. As late yesterday, no group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The voices against violence in the country raised after Taliban in April announced their spring offensive called Al-Khandaq. Since then most parts of the country including capital Kabul have been badly hit by violence. A report published by Pajhwok Afghan News, an Afghan news agency, says that at least 3000 people were killed and wounded in the month of May alone. According to the report, 1,762 people were killed and 1,190 others were injured in 28 out of total 34 provinces of the country during the month. The number shows a 42 percent increase in casualties from April.
Armed gunmen stormed the heavily fortified compound of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) in Kabul on Wednesday afternoon.
The massive compound, located close to the international airport, houses several international agencies, including the Interpol. Eyewitnesses who were stuck inside the compound during the attack told Ruchi Kumar of the Hindu that they heard one large explosion, followed by several smaller blasts. “We were in hiding for over an hour and could hear gunfires and even several rockets outside, but thankfully, no one in our office was injured or killed,” said an Afghan employee, sharing his ordeal after escaping.
“I think there were about 10 attackers; and it seems like they were all killed when the special forces arrived,” he added, still on edge and panting. One Afghan policeman was killed in a car bomb attack outside the compound. Afghan officials said there were only eight attackers and all were neutralized before they could get farther into the compound. The complex is one of the most heavily guarded compounds in Kabul, owing to the presence of international forces within the area. “Clearance operations are now under way,” officials stated, two hours after the first explosion was reported.
The presence of several international organizations in the complex raises questions about the actual target of the attack. “Many international projects are based here, although I didn’t see many foreigners,” said another senior Ministry official, who was also caught in the attack and took cover in his office. He expressed concern over how far the insurgents were able to penetrate the secured compound.
“There are so many checkpoints before one can get even to the gates of the compound. It is surprising how they even made it to the periphery of the MoI compound,” he said.
Interestingly, the insurgents themselves were dressed like foreign forces and were travelling in a large vehicle mostly used by expatriates or diplomats. These vehicles are rarely stopped for regular security checks around the city.
A day before the attack, Afghan security forces arrested a few insurgents in the vicinity of the Ministry compound and captured a large vehicle which was laden with explosives. An official within the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said that the two incidents were not related.
“We’ve had information about these attacks for a while now and were prepared for it,” he told this Kumar. “We also have reports on other potential attacks and have increased security across the city and are working to foil such attempts,” he said, adding the insurgents caught the day before were intending to target the airport, and not the Ministry compound.
However, insurgents have conducted similar coordinated attacks on multiple locations in the city earlier this month, like the ones on May 9 , which targeted police buildings. Taliban has, in fact, issued a warning to Kabul residents to avoid areas close to offices hosting military and security forces since they are planning more attacks.
The regional faction of the Islamic State terror group took responsibility of the incident. However, the Afghan NDS official said that it was the Haqqani Network that executed the attack. “It’s always the Haqqani Network. They conduct the most attacks on this city,” he said.