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Amid Women’s Protest, Taliban Close To Forming New Government

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Amid Women's Protest, Taliban Close To Forming New Government

Afghan women held a rare protest for the right to work under a new regime as the Taliban said on Thursday that they were close to forming a new government.

The Islamist militants, who have pledged a softer brand of rule than during their brutal reign of 1996-2001, must now transform from insurgent group to governing power.

The announcement of a cabinet, which two Taliban sources told AFP may take place on Friday following afternoon prayers, would come just days after the chaotic pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war with an astounding military victory for the Islamist group.

In one of the most symbolic moments since the takeover of Kabul on August 15, the militants paraded on Wednesday some of the military hardware they had captured during their offensive, even flying a Black Hawk helicopter over Kandahar, their movement’s spiritual heartland.

Now, all eyes are on whether the Taliban can deliver a cabinet capable of managing a war-wracked economy and honour the movement’s pledges of a more “inclusive” government.

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Speculation is rife about the make-up of a new government, although a senior official said on Wednesday that women were unlikely to be included.
Senior leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai — a hardliner in the first Taliban administration — told BBC Pashto in an interview that while women could continue working, there “may not” be a place for them in the cabinet of any future government or any other top post.

In the western city of Herat, some 50 women took to the streets in a rare, defiant protest for the right to work and over the lack of women’s participation in the new government.

“It is our right to have education, work and security,” the protesters chanted in unison, said an AFP journalist who witnessed the protest.

“We are not afraid, we are united,” they added.

Herat is a relatively cosmopolitan city on the ancient silk road near the Iranian border. It is one of the more prosperous in Afghanistan and girls have already returned to school there.

One of the organisers of the protest, Basira Taheri, told AFP she wanted the Taliban to include women in the new cabinet.

“We want the Taliban to hold consultations with us,” Taheri said. “We don’t see any women in their gatherings and meetings.”

Among the 122,000 people who fled Afghanistan in a frenzied US-led airlift that ended on Monday was the first female Afghan journalist to interview a Taliban official live on television.

READ ALSO: Putin Mocks U.S., Says Campaign In Afghanistan Ended Only In Tragedies

Speaking to AFP in Qatar, the former anchor for the Tolo News media group said women in Afghanistan were “in a very bad situation”.

“I want to say to the international community — please do anything (you can) for Afghan women,” Beheshta Arghand said.

Women’s rights were not the only major concern in the lead-up to the Taliban’s announcement of a new government.

In Kabul, residents voiced worry over the country’s long-running economic difficulties, now seriously compounded by the militant movement’s takeover.

“With the arrival of the Taliban, it’s right to say that there is security, but business has gone down below zero,” Karim Jan, an electronic goods shop owner, told AFP.

The United Nations warned earlier this week of a looming “humanitarian catastrophe” in Afghanistan, as it called to ensure that those wanting to flee the new regime still have a way out.

On Wednesday, a Qatar Airways flight landed at the trashed airport in Kabul — a first step towards getting the facility back up and running as a crucial lifeline for aid.

AFP

 

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20 University Students To Die For Killing Critic Of Bangladesh Govt

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20 University Students To Die For Killing Critic Of Bangladesh Govt

Twenty university students were on Wednesday sentenced to death by a Bangladesh court for the 2019 murder of a young man who criticised the government on social media.

The battered body of Abrar Fahad, 21, was found in his dormitory hours after he wrote a Facebook post slamming Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for signing a water-sharing deal with India.

He was beaten with a cricket bat and other blunt objects for six hours by 25 fellow students who were members of the ruling Awami League’s student wing, the Bangladesh Chhatra League.

“I am happy with the verdict,” Fahad’s father Barkat Ullah told reporters outside court after the sentencing. “I hope the punishments will be served soon.”

The remaining five perpetrators were handed life imprisonment.

Chief prosecutor Mohammad Abu Abdullah Bhuiyuan told AFP that the murder was premeditated.

All those given death sentences were between 20 and 22 years old at the time of the murder and attended the elite

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology alongside Fahad.

READ ALSO: Helicopter Carrying Chief Of Defence Staff, Wife Crashes

Three of the defendants are still at large while the rest were in the courtroom.

Faruque Ahmed, a lawyer for the defendants, said the sentence would be appealed.

“I am very disappointed at the verdict. It is not fair,” he told AFP.

“They are young men and some of the best students of the country. They were sentenced to death despite no proper evidence against some of them.”

Fahad had put up a post on Facebook that went viral hours before his death.

In it, he criticised the government for signing an accord that allowed India to take water from a river that lies on the boundary the two countries share.

Fahad had been seen — in leaked CCTV footage that went viral on social media — walking into a dormitory with some BCL activists.

About six hours later, his body was carried out by the students and laid on the ground.

Protests in the days after Fahad’s murder called for the attackers to be harshly punished and for the BCL to be banned.

READ ALSO: Death Toll In Indonesia Volcano Rises To 34

Hasina vowed soon afterwards that the killers would get the “highest punishment”.

The BCL has earned notoriety in recent years after some of its members were accused of killing, violence and extortion.

In 2018, its members allegedly used violence to suppress a major anti-government student protest.

Those rallies were sparked by anger over road safety after a student was killed by a speeding bus.

Death sentences are common in Bangladesh with hundreds of people on death row. All executions are by hanging, a legacy of the British colonial era.

In August, a court sentenced six Islamist extremists to death for the murders of two gay rights activists.

Sixteen people were handed the death penalty in 2019 for burning alive a 19-year-old student who accused her seminary’s head teacher of sexual harassment.

AFP

 

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Helicopter Carrying Chief Of Defence Staff, Wife Crashes

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Helicopter Carrying Chief Of Defence Staff, Wife Crashes

A helicopter carrying India’s foremost military officer, Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat and his wife crashed near Ooty in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. Details of the injured and of any possible casualties are awaited.

Sources told The Indian Express that at least three injured people from the crash have been taken to a nearby hospital, but their identities are not confirmed yet.

According to sources, Rawat’s staff and some family members were also on board in a Mi-series helicopter.

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Rawat is the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff appointed on January 1, 2020. He was appointed the head of the newly created Department of Military Affairs in one of the most significant reorganization in Defence Ministry in decades.

He had served as the Chief of the Army for three years before taking over as the CDS.

 

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Death Toll In Indonesia Volcano Rises To 34

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Death Toll In Indonesia Volcano Rises To 34

Over 34 lives have been lost to the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Semeru volcano.

The mountain on the island of Java had thundered to life on Saturday, ejecting volcanic ash high into the sky and raining hot mud on villages as thousands of panicked people fled their homes.

The disaster swallowed entire homes and vehicles, blanketing villages such as Curah Kobokan in grey ash and leaving residents terrified of returning home.

“I’m traumatised, I asked my relatives if they were brave enough to go back to Curah Kobokan and they all said no, they’d rather sleep under a tree,” said Marzuki Suganda, a 30-year-old who works at a sand mine in the area.

“When the eruption happened, I really thought I was going to die here.”

Rescuers have been battling dangerous conditions since the deadly weekend eruption, searching for survivors and bodies in the volcanic debris, wrecked buildings and destroyed vehicles.

Search crews deployed dogs on Tuesday to aid the operation.

“The latest update from the ground… (is) 34 people died, 17 are missing,” the disaster agency spokesman Abdul Muhari told AFP.

Almost 3,700 have been evacuated from the affected area, he added.

Mt Semeru has remained active since Saturday, keeping emergency workers and area residents on edge.

There were three small eruptions on Tuesday, each spewing ash around a kilometre (3,300 ft) into the sky, authorities said.

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The task for rescuers was made more difficult by the instability of the volcanic debris.

“What we are afraid of is the ground being cold outside but still hot inside,” said police officer Imam Mukson Rido.

“If it’s hot inside, we must get away.”

Officials have advised locals not to travel within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of Semeru’s crater, as the nearby air is highly polluted and could affect vulnerable groups.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said during a trip to the area Tuesday that the government will look into moving homes away because of the threat posed by the volcano.

“I hope after things calm down we can start both fixing infrastructures and think about the possibility of relocation from areas we believe to be dangerous,” he told Indonesia’s Metro TV.

“Earlier I got a report (that) there are around 2,000 houses that must be relocated.”

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity, and the country has nearly 130 active volcanoes.

AFP

 

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