Independent Elections Commission on Sunday announced the timeline of the country's parliamentary and district council election which are due to be held in October.
Voter registration has already begun for the polls and the process will end on June 12.
Based on the timeline that was announced by IEC chief Gula Jan Abdulbadi Sayad, registration of candidates for both the elections will begin on 26th May and end on 12th June.
Preliminary list of candidates will be announced on June 28 while the final list will be out on August 3.
The candidates can withdraw nomination between June 29 and August 1.
Campaign for parliamentary elections will begin on September 28 and end on October 17, while that for district councils elections will be between 3-17 October.
The final results of parliamentary elections will be announced on December 20 while the final results of district councils vote will be on January 24.
According to the timeline, the final list of voting centers will be announced on June 23.
Police have arrested Najibullah Kabuli, the Hezb-i-Musharikat Milli Afghanistan leader who has been sentenced to one year imprisonment by a primary court, an official said on Sunday.
Hashmatullah Stanikzai, a Kabul police official, said Kabuli was arrested in connection with a criminal case on Saturday. Details about his detention should be shared by the relevant court, he added.
Kabuli, who is currently in police custody, told Pajhwok Afghan News in a telephonic conversation that he had been held in connection with legal claims and had been jailed for one year.
However, he did not name anyone but said someone had presented fake documents regarding his involvement in an attack on the residence of that person. The applicant says he was wounded in the assault.
“The claim of my involvement is wrong and his documents are forged. But the applicant’s bosses has taken a decision in his favour,” he added without naming anyone.
Major economic powers and international institutions have announced support for Afghanistan’s economic programs and the government’s reform agenda.
A statement from the Afghan embassy in Washington said on Sunday the support pledge came during a meeting attended by representatives of major economies and Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi.
Hakimi briefed representatives of the international community about progress in implementation of Afghanistan’s reform agenda over the past two years and economic activities in the war-torn country.
Hakimi said Afghanistan had kept its promises within the National Framework it had pledged to evolve at the Brussels Conference. Some of the targets had been achieved in a shorted time, he claimed.
The finance minister said a new system for revenue collection was being established to help boost Afghanistan’s annual revenue from six billion Afghanis to nine billion Afghanis.
Representatives of the USAID, European Union, World Bank, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Canada and other countries attended the huddle.
Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials on Sunday said polls could not be held in five districts of southern Helmand province.
Local law-enforcement officials had earlier promised ensuring security in most areas of Helmand ahead of parliamentary and district council elections, set for October this year.
Ahmad Shah Sahibzada, IEC’s acting head for Helmand, told Pajhwok Afghan News the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the commission’s head office had told them conducting elections was not possible in five districts.
The insecure districts include Baghran, Musa Qala, Nawzad, Khanshin and Dishu, which were under Taliban control, the IEC official said.
Sahibzada added they had employed officers to handle poll-related election affairs in the five districts but enforcing order there was the responsibility of security organs.
Except Nawa and Greshk, all other districts are under threat from Taliban militants. The government controls 50 percent territory in Nawa and Greshk districts.
Even the third police district of Lashkargah, the provincial capital, has been a battleground while the fourth police district is fully controlled by the insurgents.
Governor Hayatullah Hayatalso acknowledged that voter registration and holding elections in the five districts would not be possible.
He said that they had suggested voting on the basis of electoral districts so that rights of those who were unable to cast ballots were not violated.
Attaullah Afghan, the Helmand provincial council head, warned the elections would be symbolic in the province if a pre-poll clearing operation was not conducted.
He said six districts including Sangin were under Taliban control. The government had sway over office complexes in Marja, Garmser, Kajaki and Washir districts.
Naad Ali district is also not ready for elections. Polls could be conducted only in Nawa and Greshk districts, Afghan said, adding elections in Helmand should be based on electoral district.
In the last one week, 6,000 people in Helmand have registered as voters.
A US push to change the Iran nuclear deal was sending a “very dangerous message” that countries should never negotiate with Washington, Iran’s foreign minister warned as US and North Korean leaders prepare to meet for denuclearization talks.
Speaking to reporters in New York on Saturday, Mohammad Javad Zarif also said that for French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “to try to appease the president (Donald Trump) would be an exercise in futility.”
Trump will decide by May 12 whether to restore US economic sanctions on Tehran, which would be a severe blow to the 2015 pact between Iran and six major powers. He has pressured European allies to work with Washington to fix the deal.
Macron and Merkel are both due to meet with Trump in Washington this week.
“The United States has not only failed to implement its side (of the deal), but is even asking for more,” said Zarif, who is in New York to attend a UN General Assembly meeting.
“That’s a very dangerous message to send to people of Iran but also to the people of the world - that you should never come to an agreement with the United States because at the end of the day the operating principle of the United States is ‘what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is negotiable,’” he said.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said earlier this month that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “looked at the Iran deal, he’s seen what he can get and he’s seen how he can push through loopholes and we’re not going to let that happen again.”
Under the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, struck the pact to try to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon but Trump believes it has “disastrous flaws.”
Zarif said if Washington leaves the deal, there were many options being considered by Tehran, including complaining through a dispute mechanism set up by the agreement or simply leaving the deal by restarting its nuclear activities.
“We will make a decision based on our national security interests when the time comes. But whatever that decision will be, it won’t be very pleasant to the United States,” he said.
When asked if Iran could stay in the deal with the remaining parties, Zarif said: “I believe that’s highly unlikely because it is important for Iran to receive the benefits of the agreement and there was no way Iran would do a one-sided implementation of the agreement.”
Iran has always said its nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes and Zarif said if Tehran resumed its nuclear activities it would not be intended “to get a bomb.”
“America never should have feared Iran producing a nuclear bomb, but we will pursue vigorously our nuclear enrichment. If they want to fear anything it’s up to them,” Zarif said.
Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry on Sunday instructed drone enthusiasts to obtain permission to fly the devices until regulations were finalized, a day after security forces shot down a recreational drone near the king’s palace in Riyadh.
Amateur online videos of heavy gunfire in the capital’s Khozama district on Saturday sparked fears of possible political unrest in the world’s top oil exporter. A senior Saudi official told Reuters there were no casualties when the drone was shot down and that King Salman was not in the palace at the time.
A security screening point had noticed the flying of a small unauthorized recreational drone, leading security forces to deal with it “according to their orders and instructions”, state news agency SPA had said.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said a law for the use of drones was in its final stage and called on users to obtain the necessary police clearance to use the devices “for particular reasons in permitted locations”, state news agency SPA reported.
Saudi Arabia has witnessed a series of radical political changes over the past year under the king’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has spearheaded reforms to transform the economy and open the country culturally.
The 32-year-old leader ousted his older cousin as crown prince last summer in a palace coup and then jailed senior royals as part of an anti-corruption sweep. Prominent clerics have also been detained in an apparent bid to silence dissent.
Those moves have helped Prince Mohammed consolidate his position in a country where power had been shared among senior princes for decades and religious figures exercised significant influence on policy.
But they have also fueled speculation about a possible backlash against the crown prince, who remains popular with Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning youth population.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan has sharply criticized the US and other NATO allies for their support of and reliance on Kurdish militias to keep a foothold in Syria, reiterating that Ankara views them as a threat to its security.
“We cannot buy weapons from the US with our money, but unfortunately, the US and coalition forces give these weapons, this ammunition, to terrorist organizations for free,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, in an interview on Turkish channel NTV.
So where does the threat come from? It comes primarily from strategic partners,” he stated, emphasizing that Washington continues to funnel truck- and planeloads of weapons into Northern Syria.
“The US sent 5,000 trucks loaded with weapons to northern Syria,”the Turkish leader said, reiterating concerns he repeatedly voiced before, especially following the launch of military operations in northern Syria.
On January 20, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive into Syria with the aim of dislodging Kurdish “terrorists” from Afrin. The assault, codenamed Operation Olive Branch, has strained relations between Washington and Ankara – which has since threatened to expand the operation to Manbij and beyond. The Kurdish YPG are key US allies on the ground in this area, but Ankara views them as an offshoot of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Washington, for its part, has also been critical of Ankara’s growing “misalignment” with the West and of its cozier relations with Russia and Iran. Ankara’s decision to buy S-400 air defense systems from Russia exposes Turkey to possible US sanctions, Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell recently warned, noting that “it is in the American national interest to see Turkey remain strategically and politically aligned with the West.”
“The ease with which Turkey brokered arrangements with the Russian military to facilitate the launch of its Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin district –arrangements to which America was not privy– is gravely concerning,” he said. “Turkey lately has increased its engagement with Russia and Iran.”
India's cabinet has approved the death penalty for rapists of girls below the age of 12, after Narendra Modi, the prime minister, held an emergency meeting in response to nationwide outrage in the wake of a series of cases.
Saturday's controversial executive order, or ordinance, amends the criminal law to also include more drastic punishment for convicted rapists of girls under the age of 16, government officials said.
India launched fast-track courts and a tougher rape law that included the death penalty after an assault on a young woman shocked the country in 2012, but India's rape epidemic has shown no sign of dying down.
There were 40,000 rapes reported in 2016. The victims were children in 40 percent of those cases.
However, Kirti Singh, a women's rights activist, says capital punishment is unlikely to act as a deterrent in such cases; instead, the authorities should focus on carrying out proper investigations and legal processes.
"Studies have shown that death penalty does not act as a deterrent. Our experience shows the same. We are against death penalty," she told Al Jazeera from New Delhi.
"[In the recent child rape cases], there was a complete breakdown of law and order. It wasn't as if just because death penalty doesn't exist, there was this breakdown.
"Some people in India act in with impunity, thinking that they won't be punished. The certainty of the punishment, rather than the severity of it, should be made sure."
Some activists want the government to set a timeframe for bringing suspects to justice as Indian courts are notorious for delays, with more than 30 million cases pending.
According to Abhay Singh, an Indian lawyer, "the conviction rate in rape cases in India was only 28 percent, implying that 72 out of 100 suspects are going unpunished".
The latest outpouring of national revulsion came after details emerged of the gang rape of an eight-year-old Muslim nomad girl in Kathua, a Hindu-dominated area in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Local leaders of Modi's BJP had appeared to offer support to the men accused, adding to the public disgust.
Protests around the country were further prompted by the arrest of an MP from the BJP last week in connection with the rape of a teenager in Uttar Pradesh, a populous northern state that is governed by the party.
More recently, a sexual attack on an 11-year-old girl was reported in Modi's home state of Gujarat.
The post-mortem revealed the girl had been tortured, raped, strangled and smothered.
Modi's failure to speak out soon enough during the latest bout of public anger fuelled criticism that his government was not doing enough to protect women.
With a general election due next year, Modi moved quickly to remedy that negative perception by holding the emergency cabinet meeting as soon as he returned on Saturday morning from an official visit to Europe.
The Afghan and UAE officials inaugurate a major township built in Kabul city with the financial support of the UAE government.
A ceremony was organized to inaugurate the major township, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zaid Al-Nahyan or the Emirates Township, in Kabul city on Sunday.
Several key officials from the two countries including President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani were present during the inauguration of the township.
In his speech at the inauguration ceremony, the Minister of Urban Development and Housing, Syed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, thanked the UAE officials for their sincere support to build the township and called a symbol of the friendship of the two countries.
Minister Naderi further added that the government of national unity is committed to build shelters for the residents of the country and work is underway on several other key and major plans.
He said the foundation of the township was laid during the government of the former President Hamid Karzai and was due to be completed over a period of one year.
However, he said the work was not completed and was halted due to some issues but the new leadership of the ministry managed to resume the work of the project which subsequently resulted into its completion and is being inaugurated yesterday.
According to Minister Naderi, the township consists of 3330 apartments as well as some key facilities including a dedicated substation, proper walk sides, water meters, and etc.
In the meantime, the UAE officials reaffirmed their commitment to support Afghanistan in different sectors in a bid to ensure peace and stability in the country.
In his speech during the ceremony, President Ghani thanked the government of UAE for their support to build the township and called for more cooperation between the two countries on various levels, particularly to boost the private sector.
The preference of relationship over merit and qualification in government institutions in Afghanistan has deprived Afghans of good governance. On the one hand, there is a serious dearth of professionals in the country but on the other hand, the problem of favoritism has eliminated the possibility of utilizing the potential of existing professionals.
Over the last decade and a half, some Afghans acquired postgraduate studies and became professionals, but those who do not have connections and relatives in government institutions are not given the chance to serve people and the country. It is very common among people that they have to find a patronage before applying for a government post, because they know their qualification and commitment alone will not help them get the job.
While the government claims achievements in this area, the reality is squarely otherwise. The criterion for high-level government appointments is not merit, but connections. There is still need for nepotism and favoritism to get senior government positions. The highly paid positions are for the powerful and rich.
Speaking at a gathering in Kabul Saturday, President Ghani billed the first ever appointment of commercial attachés through “open competition” a turning point and an achievement, saying it was the triumph of merit and qualification over nepotism and favoritism. His statements, however, invited different reaction on social media, with some calling it a symbolic step like its other deceitful actions. Some applicants who had gone through the test for these posts have claimed that the appointment of the new commercial attachés has been made based on patronage not merit.
Administrative corruption, nepotism, and favoritism together have crippled governance in Afghanistan. Instead of paving the way for good governance through merit-based appointments, the prevalence of favoritism on merit continues unabated in the government. The government always talks the talk, but never walks the walk. While the government publicly announces its appointments are made through open competition, it is obvious that getting a key government post without the use of patronage remains to be just a dream for Afghan youth. If the government really has an appetite to counter corruption, it should start from making sure merit triumphs over patronage.