Afghan civilian deaths hit new high: UN
Afghan civilian deaths hit new high: UN
Deaths in the capital Kabul accounted for nearly 20 percent of the toll, according to the report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has been documenting civilian casualties in the war-torn country since 2009.
The majority of the victims were killed by anti-government forces -- including the Taliban and in attacks claimed by the Islamic State, the report said.
The first six months of the year has seen a significant rise in the number of civilian lives lost in highly coordinated attacks involving more than one perpetrator, with 259 killed and 892 injured -- a 15 percent increase on the same period last year.
Many of those deaths happened in a single attack in Kabul in late May when a truck bomb exploded during the morning rush hour, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds. UNAMA put the civilian death toll at 92, saying it was the deadliest incident to hit the country since 2001.
The UN's special envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said the human cost of the conflict remains "far too high".
"The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal improvised explosive devices is particularly appalling and must immediately stop," he added in a statement.
Women and children have borne the brunt of the increase in civilian casualties, with UNAMA blaming the use of IEDs and aerial operations in populated areas for the jump.
A total of 174 women were killed and 462 injured -- an overall rise in casualties of 23 percent on last year -- while 436 children were killed in the same period, representing a nine percent increase.
Nearly half of Afghanistan's 34 provinces have seen an increase in civilian deaths in the first six months of the year, mainly due to the rise in attacks by anti-government forces.
The ground offensives by Afghan security forces are the second leading cause of civilian casualties, though UNAMA said there had been a 10 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2016.
According to the UN's figures, more than 26,500 civilians have died and nearly 49,000 injured as a result of armed conflict in Afghanistan since January 2009.
I could have done a lot more for Pakistan but was prevented by Musharraf, says Dr. A.Q. Khan
- India and Pakistan could live together in peace and harmony 'if the Kashmir problem is solved amicably,' says Pakistan's top nuclear scientist
- The safety and security system put in place by Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division is 'failsafe'
DUBAI: “All the Western countries are against any Muslim country having a nuclear capacity,” said Pakistan’s former nuclear scientist — popularly known as the ‘father’ of Pakistan’s atomic bomb — in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
“Never do you hear a word said about Israel’s nuclear program,” he said.
International community keeps raising concerns over the safety of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
“The safety and security system which has been put in place by the SPD (Strategic Plans Division) is failsafe,” said Dr. Khan, in a reply to questions sent to him by email.
Dr. Khan stressed that Pakistan has “no evil designs against any country” and that the country’s nukes are purely for “self-defense” and deterrence, adding that in case of an aggression “there will be no concessions from Pakistan.”
Advocating Pakistan’s nuclear ambition, Dr. Khan said, “It has definitely protected Pakistan, not only from an aggressive India, but also from (foreign) adventurists.”
“We all know what happened to non-nuclear Pakistan in 1971. Since the early 1980s the world was aware that we had a nuclear program and neither India nor any other country has dared to touch us ... I gave Pakistan the capability of hitting back if it was attacked making any misadventure on the part of India fatal for both countries,” he said.
The two countries could live together in peace and harmony “if the Kashmir problem is solved amicably,” he said.
As Pakistan heads toward the general election next month (July 25), Dr. Khan said that he has no political plans.
Dr. Khan dissolved his political party, Tahreek-e-Tahaffuz-e-Pakistan (Movement for the Protection of Pakistan), after the 2013 election. “The formation of that party was at the insistence of many people and I gave them the opportunity to try. However, there were no good results.”
“Politics in Pakistan requires rolling banknotes,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Election Commission of Pakistan made public the assets of main electoral candidates in the 2018 elections, figures that have shown rich political leaders living lavish lifestyle.
Pakistan problems are caused by the “corrupt system and political inabilities” where leaders had most of their wealth stashed abroad and “little interest in safeguarding national interests,” Dr. Khan said.
“See how Gen. Musharraf, a military dictator, sold this country’s sovereignty to the West at a simple phone call from the US. For that, we have paid, and are still paying, a very heavy price.”
Dr. Khan alleged that he was sacked by Musharraf on a US whim at a time when he could have done much more for Pakistan.
“… Read what Chaudhry Shujaat Husain has said about that episode in his autobiography.” He said Musharraf “neutralized” him (Dr. A.Q. Khan) because President Bush wanted him to do so. “The country suffered because of it.”
In January 2004, Dr. Khan was summoned by the government for a debriefing on his alleged role in nuclear weapons technology proliferation after the US shared evidence with Pakistan. He confessed to the charges a month later and was put under official house arrest. He was released as a free man on Feb. 6, 2009, by the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
“I could have done a lot more for Pakistan in the years after my retirement but was prevented from doing so by him (Musharraf). Now he himself is in disgrace while the nation still honors me,” said the 83-year old former nuclear physicist, recalling his sacking.
Dr. Khan, who visited North Korea before under a missile program mission by Pakistan, believes that the recent Trump-Kim summit in Singapore will not definitely lead to Pyongyang’s denuclearization. “North Koreans are very pragmatic,” he said.
“As long as US troops are in Japan and South Korea, North Korea will not freeze or abandon its nuclear program.”
Both the US and North Korea are trying to get the best out of the situation — President Trump looking for a Nobel Prize for Peace and the North Korean President recognition as a world leader, he said.