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Revolving Door for Afghan Governors
by IWPR (reposted)
Saturday Aug 6th, 2005 11:05 AM
The government is accused of shifting regional chiefs from job to job because it is too scared to fire important players.
By Mohammad Jawad Sharifzada in Kabul (ARR No. 181, 06-Aug-05)

The latest reshuffle of Afghan provincial governors has left many wondering whether the government of President Hamed Karzai was sincere when it promised to remove officials with questionable records from their posts

Since the same powerful warlords and mujahedin leaders have resurfaced again and again in a variety of national- and provincial-level jobs since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, some are now asking whether the cycle will ever be broken.

In late June, with Karzai’s approval, the interior ministry transferred five governors from one province to another.

Among the most controversial moves were the appointment of Gul Agha Sherzai as governor of Nangarhar, who was shifted from his native province of Kandahar. Shirzai is a former mujahedin commander who was in charge of Kandahar until the Taleban forced him out.

In Nangarhar, Sherzai replaced Haji Din Mohammad, formerly a deputy leader in the Hezb-i-Islami mujahedin faction led by Yunus Khalis. He is now governor of Kabul province.

Eyebrows have also been raised at the selection of Haji Shir Alam as governor of Ghazni. Alam is a former militia commander most recently associated with Tanzim-e-Dawat-e-Islami – a political group set up by Abd al-Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf on the basis of his Ittehad-e-Islami mujahedin faction. Alam was recently barred from standing in the upcoming parliamentary elections because of he was deemed to have retained ties to armed groups.

“Isn’t there anyone else who can be a minister or governor in Afghanistan except for a few warlords?” demanded Hanifullah, a 60-year-old civil servant. Instead of getting rid of them, "the government is just transferring them from one post to another and in doing so it is cheating the people," he said, adding that he now regretted voting for Karzai last year.

The government defended the latest round of appointments.

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Saturday Aug 6th, 2005 11:06 AM
New law pits the government against local charities in the fight to claim foreign aid.

By Abdul Baseer Saeed in Kabul (ARR No. 181, 06-Aug-05)

Who should receive and disperse the foreign aid money flowing into Afghanistan: the government or the legion of domestic and international non-government organisations, NGOs, that have been handling much of the money up to now?

On one side of the debate are the growing number of officials who accuse the NGOs of corruption and inefficiency. On the other are the non-government groups, which contend that the government currently has neither the capacity nor the skills to handle the millions of dollars that are coming in.

A new law, signed by President Hamed Karzai in mid-June but not published until July, seeks to resolve the dispute by establishing stringent controls over which types of organisations can register for NGO status, and regulating the types of projects NGOs can undertake.

At present, there are close to 2,400 NGOs operating in the country, involved in projects ranging from dam construction to media development, like IWPR. Other than the requirement that they file quarterly reports with the economics ministry, the government has until now imposed few restrictions on their operations.

The new law requires all NGOs to reapply for permission to work in the country. Their applications must be approved by an evaluation commission composed of five representatives from various ministries, before the economics ministry can register them.

In addition, the new law bars NGOs from being involved in certain types of projects, such as construction and overtly political activities.

Some NGO directors say they are concerned that the legislation could limit the scope and effectiveness of their activities.

“The law has some shortcomings such as the lack of detail regarding expenditures, and the restrictions on NGO engagement in construction,” said Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi, chairman of the Afghan NGOs Coordination Bureau, ANCB, an umbrella organisation. “All of this indicates the imposition of limitations on NGO activities.”

The dispute over control of foreign-aid money has been simmering for some time.

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Saturday Aug 6th, 2005 11:08 AM
Carpet Industry Still Faces Challenges
Hand-woven rugs are an important export for Afghanistan, but neighbouring Pakistan is attempting to make inroads into the industry.

By Abdul Baseer Saeed in Kabul (ARR No. 181, 06-Aug-05)

Carpet weaving is one of Afghanistan’s foremost industries, and the hand-woven treasures constitute one of the best export hopes. But years of civil strife drove many to flee their country for neighbouring Pakistan, where their business continued to flourish.

Now, the government in Kabul would like to see the weavers bring their looms back home. However, continued instability in many areas of the country, coupled with enticements by the Pakistani government, which wants to keep its own rug industry going, are prompting some Afghan carpet-makers to relocate aboard and discouraging others from returning home.

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Sweet Alternative to Opium

Farmers in Baghlan province see the revival of an old sugar factory as a way to produce an alternative to lucrative opium production.

By Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi in Mazar-e-Sharif (ARR No. 181, 06-Aug-05)

The factory is ready, the workers trained, but rest is something of a gamble.

Will the farmers of Baghlan province, northwest of Kabul, plough up their poppies and swap the rich harvest of opium for sugar beet?

Many say that they will, even though poppies have been a reliable source of income over the years of jihad and civil war.

At a recently refurbished factory, the only sugar plant in Afghanistan, manager Abdul Karim Wazeri said he is trying to persuade all the farmers of the northern provinces to plant beet. If they do, he has pledged to buy their entire crop for the next two or three years.

He told IWPR that nearly 200 workers were already at the factory, being paid a wage of three US dollars a day, and that the plant could process 100,000 tonnes of beet a year from which 15,000 tons of sugar would be produced.

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Mines Reap Grim Harvest

The rate of casualties from landmines has eased, but shows little sign of falling further, leaving new generations maimed by past wars.

By Abdul Baseer Saeed in Kabul (ARR No. 181, 06-Aug-05)

Concentration etched on his face, the young boy lurches hesitantly forward. Mohammad Agha, 14, is learning to walk again - an artificial leg replacing one blown off by a landmine not far from Kabul.

He and hundreds of others – boys, girls, men and women – are part of the latest crop of casualties in one of the world's most heavily mined countries.

Up to 10 million anti-personnel and anti-tank mines were planted in shifting battle lines by various forces during more than two decades of wars. Most minefields are unmarked.

“I lost my leg three months ago. While I was grazing my sheep, I heard the strange sound of a mine exploding, but I didn’t know what had happened because I lost awareness," Mohammad Agha told an IWPR reporter early one August morning as he tentatively leaned on the prosthetic replacing his right limb.

"When I opened my eyes I was in the emergency hospital and when I wanted to walk, I couldn’t. Then I saw I had lost my leg.”

There are mines everywhere, from the most desolate mountain areas, where they hindered recovery of bodies from a crashed airliner earlier this year, to war-ruined houses in gentle countryside, and even inside cities.

The mine that took off Mohammad Agha's leg had been planted in Paghman, some 15 kilometres outside of Kabul. The area, with cool streams, trees and grass in the foothills of the Koh-i-Baba mountain range, is a magnet for many of the overcrowded capital's estimated three million people seeking to escape the urban dust, noise and heat.

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by DT (reposted)
Saturday Aug 6th, 2005 11:09 AM

KABUL: Women and children in Afghanistan continue to face an “acute emergency” because of exceptionally high maternal and child mortality rates, a representative of the UN children’s agency said on Thursday.

About 20 percent of Afghan children die before their fifth birthday, said Cecilia Lotse, UNICEF’s director for South Asia, and about 1,600 out of every 100,000 Afghan mothers die while giving birth or because of related complications.

“While the country is progressing from a state of emergency to a focus on development, I think it’s fair to say that the objective reality of women and children remains nothing but an acute emergency,” she said at a news conference.

In some parts of Afghanistan, maternal death rates are as high as 6,000 per 100,000 women, she said, citing Afghan public Health Ministry figures. Lotse compared the statistic to an estimated three deaths in her native Sweden.

“Afghan women don’t live long lives,” she said. “Afghanistan may be the one country in the world where women die before men.”

About 20 percent of all Afghan children die before age 5 from diseases including diarrhoeal ailments, pneumonia, malaria and typhoid, she said. Many deaths could be prevented through simple immunisations, better access to clean water, and improved knowledge about sanitary practices.

The agency said in a report last October that there had been alarmingly slow progress in reducing child deaths globally, with one in 12 children failing to survive until age 5. Half of all under-5 deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa, it said.