Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP AF-PAK News Update – April 2012

NOTE: This is an excerpt. Click here to see the news update in its entirety.

This update is a summary of various news articles from open sources relating to US AFPAK policy and governance, economy, security and regional interests in Afghanistan and Western Pakistan. Please click on the links below to access the complete article from the internet. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries given below highlight only the portion of each article that is relevant and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Please note that the update includes articles, which use the British English spelling. Articles are taken from diverse regional, American and European media sources, reflecting a range of political views/biases, and are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. Opinions expressed in the articles/commentaries do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.

Disclaimer: Articles are taken from established and diverse professional periodicals, news articles, and editorial commentaries from different countries, reflecting a range of political views/biases, that are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries may highlight only a portion of an article that is relevant to the readers and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Opinions expressed in the articles, commentaries and features do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.

GOVERNANCE: DEMOCRACY & RULE OF LAW

Afghanistan: Governance & Civil Society

Afghanistan welcomes Salahuddin Rabbani as new HPC chairman

The appointment of Salahuddin Rabbani, the oldest son of the late Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, to chair the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) has created optimism in Afghanistan. “The Hizb-e-Islami (HI) has high hopes that Salahuddin Rabbani proves to be a great mediator for peace and becomes successful in carrying out his sacred duty,” said Ghairat Baheer, a member of HI’s five-person delegation who was in Kabul for negotiations with the government last week [9-14 April]. HI, the country’s former ruling party, is considered a stakeholder in Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process. Salahuddin’s appointment also has allayed political concerns, said Seyyed Hossein Alemi Balkhi, a member of the Afghan parliament. “With the increasing efforts for peace talks, some were concerned that the achievements of the past 10 years regarding freedom of expression, women’s rights, and minority rights could be undermined,” he said. “However, these concerns have been resolved, because Rabbani is an intellectual and well-educated young man.” Afghan’s youth and women welcomed the naming of Salahuddin to the HPC leadership post. Hamideh, a student at Kabul University, longs for peace and tranquillity. She expressed concern Afghan women would lose some of what they have achieved in the past 10 years if too conservative a person became HPC chair. “In the last 10 years, Afghanistan has witnessed great progress in freedom of speech, as well as the rights of Afghan women,” she said. With Salahuddin, a moderate man who has completed his higher education abroad, she expressed high hope for preservation of those freedoms. Other young adults in Afghanistan take a similar view. (Central Asia Online)

Karzai Blocks U.S. Congressman From Kabul Visit

U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s office has confirmed that Afghan President Hamid Karzai forced him to cancel a visit to Kabul, saying he was not welcome in the country. A statement from Rohrbacher’s office said he was to be a late addition to a U.S. delegation that met on 22 April with the ethnic Uzbek former Northern Alliance commander Abdul Rashid Dostum and other Afghan opposition leaders. Rohrabacher, a Republican and 23-year veteran of Congress, is an outspoken critic of Karzai. The lawmaker’s office said Karzai threatened to block entrance to the entire U.S. delegation if Rohrabacher was aboard the military plane that was transporting the group from Dubai to Kabul on 20 April. The statement said Karzai’s demand was forwarded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who “personally petitioned Dana not to continue on with the delegation.” Rohrabacher stayed behind in Dubai. Earlier media reports said Rohrabacher had been refused an Afghan visa. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on April 23 that the Foreign Ministry can grant or deny a visa to any foreign national, but he did not comment specifically on Rohrabacher’s case. Rohrbacher, who chairs the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, has previously called for investigations into alleged Afghan government corruption. He also angered Kabul in January when he led a small delegation of mainly Republican U.S. lawmakers to Berlin for meetings with Afghan opposition politicians. (RFE/RL)

ECONOMY, RECONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT

Economy

Parliament Approves National Budget

Afghanistan’s House of Representatives approved the national budget for the current fiscal year on 22 April after having rejected it twice in the past month. This year’s budget for 1381 was approved after the Ministry of Finance made changes to the allocated amounts for the President and Kabul Bank, Afghan Minister of Finance Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal said. Speaking at the House of Representatives, Zakhilwal said $1 million was deducted from the President’s allocated budget and $15 million was deducted from Kabul Bank’s allocation. The previous draft rejected by Parliament had allocated $80 million to Kabul Bank. Previously, Afghan parliamentarians had called the budget unbalanced and criticised it for over-allocating to the President and Kabul Bank. Some MPs had said that giving $80 million to Kabul Bank would be a national treason if approved. After the budget was rejected for a second time, the Finance Deputy Minister Mustafa Mastoor said that MPs had rejected it because they wanted an increase in their own budget. In reaction to his comments, the MPs called for him to be sacked or they would never approve the budget. Zakhilwal said he did consider the matter. “I discussed the issue with Afghan President, he said that Mustafa Mastoor is an educated person and should remain in his position,” he said. (TOLOnews)

Refugees

‘Majority of Afghan refugees unregistered’

A majority of Afghan refugees have not got themselves registered out of fear that they would be forcefully repatriated from Balochistan, Major Farzand Ali, the Afghan Refugees Organization Balochistan director operations, said on 4 April. Addressing a workshop, he said there was no legislation to deal with refugees who had been residing in Pakistan for the past three decades. According to UNHCR, about 3.5 million Afghan refugees are registered and there are uncountable refugees who are still unregistered. The workshop titled ‘Sensitization and Capacity Building Media’ was held at Quetta Club. Participants deliberated upon an agreement inked between the government of Pakistan and UNHCR allowing 1.7 million Afghan refugees to continue sheltering in the country until the end of 2012. Pakistan has allowed 150,000 unskilled Afghan refugees to prolong their stay in the country through an agreement with Afghanistan and UNHCR. “A population verification survey under Management and Repatriation Strategy for Afghan Refugees (MRSAR) was recently conducted in three districts – Quetta, Pishin and Qila Abdullah. But we are yet to receive any feedback on what are the basic requirements of Afghan refugees living here,” Ali said. Under MRSAR, those refugees who have invested more than Rs 5 million in productive business should be allowed to continue their business and may be given work permits for the specific period of time. “The well-off refugees have already obtained National Identity Cards and settled in urban slums. Therefore, hardly anyone will show interest in investment,” Ali said. He said there were 150 unfrequented routes along the Pak-Afghan border where keeping a strict check on cross-border movement was impossible. “That is why, often overwhelming majority of the refugees return after volunteer repatriation to their hometowns.” Over one million refugees repatriated in 2004. Of then, 80 percent returned to Pakistan due to the law and order situation in their country. (Daily Times)

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