Yesterday's Afghan News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Acting Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi resigns

Abdul Salam Azimi

Khaama Press / October 23, 2014

Acting Chief Justice and head of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan Abdul Salam Azimi has resigned from his position.

The Presidential Palace media office following a statement said President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai accepted the resignation of Mr. Azimi and thanked him for his services in justice sector of the country.

The statement further added that Mr. Azimi was awareded with the highest governmental medal, Ghazni Amanullah Khan medal by President Ghani.

President Ghani also hailed Mr. Azimi for his active role in maintaining and implementation of justice and law in the country.

The medal was awarded during a ceremony attended by Chief Exeucutive Officer Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, President Ghani’s special envoy Ahmad Zia Massoud, Afghan lawmakers and senior officials from the Supreme Court, the statement said.

According to the Presidential Palace media office, Mr. Azimi had forwarded his resignation to President Ghani during the recent days.

Clashes between security forces,
Taliban leave 23 dead in N. Afghanistan

KABUL, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Gun battles between Afghan security forces and Taliban militants have claimed the lives of 23 people, mostly armed insurgents, in the northern Kunduz and Badakhshan provinces since Wednesday night, officials said Thursday.

A clash erupted between Taliban militants and security forces early Thursday in Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province had left 13 people dead, a local official said.

"The clash erupted in the wee hours of Thursday and lasted for several hours, during which 13 people including nine militants and four Afghan soldiers had been killed," district governor Imanudin Qurishi told reporters here.

Another 11 people, including five soldiers and six insurgents, sustained injuries in the clash, he added.

In a related development, security forces stormed Taliban hideouts in Badakhshan province Wednesday night, killing 10 insurgents, police said.

"Units of security personnel stormed rebel hideouts in Yamchian area of Darayem district, Badakhshan province Wednesday night and killed 10 militants during the operations which lasted for a few hours," deputy to provincial police chief Abdul Qadir Sayad told Xinhua.

Neither security personnel nor civilians had been hurt during the operations, Sayad said.

Taliban militants who have intensified activities over the past couple of months have yet to make comment.

Meanwhile, two blasts rocked the northern Kunduz city and Gizab district of the southern Uruzgan province, leaving eight people including four children injured, officials said.

Afghan blast wounds 4 children,
forces kill 17 militants

KABUL, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- Violent skirmishes have claimed 17 lives of militants and injured four children in the conflict-hit Afghanistan over the past 24 hours.

In the latest violent event, a mortar struck a residential area in Gizab district of the southern Uruzgan province on Thursday, injuring four innocent children, a local official said.

"A mortar fired by Taliban rebels struck a residential area in Gizab district at 09:30 a.m. local time today (Thursday), badly injuring four innocent children," district governor Abdullah Khan told Xinhua.

He also added that the Taliban militants have been fighting over the past one and a half months in order to capture the district.

Taliban militants have yet to claim responsibility for the attack.

Meanwhile, Afghan police backed by the army have killed 17 militants during a series of operations across the country over the past 24 hours, Interior Ministry said in a statement released here on Thursday.

"In the operations conducted in parts of Kunar, Nangarhar, Kandahar and Zabul provinces over the past 24 hours, 17 armed Taliban have been killed, nine injured and 31 others arrested," the statement asserted.

There were no casualties on the security personnel, the statement contended.

Taliban militants fighting the government to regain power are yet to make comment.

Obama invites Afghan president, chief
executive to visit Washington next year

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday invited Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to visit the White House early in the new year.

Speaking with Ghani and Abdullah by video conference, Obama commended the Afghan leaders on their political agreement and reaffirmed U.S. commitment to support the unity government, the White House said in a statement, adding that Obama congratulated the two leaders for a "productive" first month for the new government.

In late September, Ghani was sworn in as new president of Afghanistan and his poll rival Abdullah assumed the newly created post of chief executive, a role similar to a prime minister, as part of a power-sharing deal following a presidential election engulfed in disputes over fraud.

At the video conference, Obama also discussed strengthening the Afghan National Security Forces to improve the security situation in Afghanistan, American and regional support for an Afghan-led peace process, and near-term Afghan budgetary reform and longer- term fiscal sustainability, according to the statement.

Washington and Kabul signed a long-awaited bilateral security agreement in late September to allow about 10,000 U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after the pullback of most American and NATO combat troops by the end of this year.

Pakistan Pledges Renewed
Focus on Polio as Infections Rise

Ayaz Gul / VOA News / October 23, 2014

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is the only country where poliovirus is still spreading fast. This year, 208 cases of paralysis were recorded, accounting for 85 percent of worldwide victims. The country is coming under extreme pressure to contain its infections and boost vaccinations, or face isolation.

The number of children paralyzed by polio in Pakistan this year is the highest since 2000, when authorities recorded 199 cases.

Ayesha Farooq, who heads the prime minister’s special polio-eradication cell, said the government is approaching the problem with what she calls a “war footing.”

“The government at all levels is making a renewed commitment to work towards making the upcoming low transmission season (January to April) to be the last that Pakistan, hopefully, gets to see. Just as Pakistan threatens the world in spreading this virus our own high-risk areas threaten spreading the virus to safer areas of Pakistan,” said Farooq.

Pakistan launched emergency polio eradication efforts in 1994. Over the next decade, the number of cases dropped from around 25,000 to just 28. But new infections still persisted and now are increasing, in part because Islamist militants have hampered vaccination campaigns.

Elias Durry, the World Health Organization’s senior emergency coordinator for Pakistan's polio program, warns that by the end of this year, the country is likely to become the only one still spreading the virus globally.

“If we miss this next year then we will be really in a deep hole that it may be very difficult for us (Pakistan) to come out and more variables may come out and drag us more into not being able to finish it. But this is the only chance where Pakistan can say this is the last chance,” said Durry.

He emphasized the need for enhanced immunization efforts in Karachi, where polio is now showing up in sewage samples taken from all over the largest Pakistani city.

Pakistani officials acknowledge there have been management and accountability problems in its polio vaccination program. But Farooq said security has become “the gravest challenge,” with 90% of new cases in what she calls “security compromised” areas.

“These are areas where there was either a ban, there is a ban [on vaccination drives], these are areas where you have active militancy, or these are areas where our polio teams had been threatened, they had been attacked. And by the way, Pakistan is the only country in the world to have lost more than 64 people, both polio vaccinators as well as police escorts providing them security, to this war against polio," said Farooq.

Officials say that the security challenge magnified in 2011 after it was revealed that the CIA organized a fake Hepatitis B vaccination drive as a cover to try to gather evidence from al-Qaida leader Osama Bin's hideout in Abbottabad.

In 2012, the Pakistani Taliban banned vaccinations in their strongholds of North and South Waziristan.

Pakistan and World Health Organization officials say the ban deprived as many as 350,000 children of polio vaccination for two years in a row, turning the Waziristan territory into the biggest “polio sanctuary” in the country.

Pakistan’s army has been conducting major counter-insurgency operations since June to rid the Afghan border region of militants. The fighting has forced tens of thousands of tribesmen to flee to nearby cities. Pakistani WHO officials attribute the jump in the number of cases this year to the sudden influx of so-called Internally Displaced Persons or IDPs.

Farooq, however, said the situation also has offered an opportunity.

“Since the exodus of the IDPs from Waziristan to date we have been able to vaccinate 750,000 IDP children. So, we are very hopeful that this polio sanctuary, which was Waziristan area, which was completely inaccessible because of the ban, this recent operation has given us a hope, the polio program a capital opportunity to target those children that, out of no fault of their own, we were not able to reach and vaccinate,” said Farooq.

WHO’s country representative, Dr. Michel Thieren, said he is optimistic Pakistan can bring the polio outbreak under control.

“We should be concerned but not afraid about the situation of today. We know that vast majority of those children are children that have not been reached out for the past one or two years in some regions. We still believe and we are confident that we can eliminate polio of Pakistan next year or at least put Pakistan in a situation where elimination will be very obvious and very quick,” said Thieren.

Pakistani officials say families across the country continue to refuse vaccinations because of religious, medical or other misconceptions attached to the polio vaccine.

Imtiaz Ali Shah heads the polio program in the violence-hit northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where most polio cases are located.

Shah said health workers still are struggling to help families understand why polio immunization is more important than more common diseases, such as diarrhea and pneumonia, that sicken and kill many children in Pakistan.

“So that is basically… [causing] confusion in their minds, that at one hand the government is coming to our doors our houses and vaccinating our children and protecting them from a disease that… [has not yet harmed] them, and they are not providing any services when we are ill and when we need the services,” said Shah.

Pakistani officials say a so-called polio-plus plan is being devised to bring some of the basic health facilities and benefits to the targeted communities to help remove some of the misperceptions and encourage them to get their children vaccinated against polio.

WHO officials also believe that by strengthening its national polio eradication system, Pakistan can also keep out the Ebola virus. This method was used to great success in Nigeria, where authorities turned polio campaign operation centers into emergency offices that helped stop the Ebola outbreak in a short period of time.

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