Leaked memo leads to claims of ethnic discrimination in Afghan government

Afghan security personnel arrive to the site of a suspected car bombing, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Updated 22 November 2017

Leaked memo leads to claims of ethnic discrimination in Afghan government

KABUL: A leaked Afghan government document that bars inclusion of an ethnic group in an anti-riot force has led to allegations of ethnic discrimination in the fragile administration and sparked deep anger in the country.

In the letter which appeared days ago on social media — allegedly written by Abdul Fattah Frogh, commander of the Afghan Public Protection Forces (APPF) of the Interior Ministry — Farogh tells officials to recruit other tribes in the new force, excluding Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.

Frogh states in the letter that President Ashraf Ghani in a decree had demanded formation of the force, but had not specified if the exclusion of Tajiks was also part of the decree or not.

A spokesman for President Ghani, Shah Hussien Murtazawi, confirmed the issuance of the decree by the president but said the former Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Jahid had months earlier proposed formation of the force which was approved by the president. He insisted the president had made no mention of any ethnic group.

He alleged that Frogh added in the letter the names of ethnic groups and demanded the exclusion of Tajiks.

“There is a need for investigation into this (incident) to find out if it was a deliberate act or not,” Murtazawi told Arab News.

Meanwhile, the leaked memo received strong reaction from parliamentarians and former government officials alike.

“Shame on those who are dragging Afghanistan toward dictatorship, isolation, ethnic division and diverse crisis …” Rahmatullah Nabil, a former head of Afghanistan’s spy agency, said in a statement.

The parliamentarians demanded the government probe the matter and release the content of the presidential decree.

“First those who have signed this should be exposed before the legal and judicial institutions. Secondly, we want to see the presidential decree to know what is written in it,” Ghulam Farooq Majrooh, an MP, said.

“If such things have been written in the president’s order, I see it equal to treason,” said Parliament’s First Deputy Speaker Humayoun Humayoun.

The leaked memo states: “On the basis of an order of the president, a 500-member of anti-riot unit has been established under the Kabul 101 commandant; hereby it is directed that within 24 hours the identities of officers belonging to Hazara, Uzbek, Pashtun — except Tajik ethnicity — must be sent.”

The Interior Ministry has confirmed the authenticity of the document but said there has been a spelling mistake in it.

“The majority of our APPF members are currently ethnic Tajiks,” Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danesh was quoted as saying in a statement.

“This is a typing error. We have adequate numbers of ethnic Tajik police officers within this unit. There is therefore a need in the unit for members from other ethnic groups so that the unit’s ethnic composition is balanced.”

The new controversy comes as ethnic tension seemingly is running high since the creation over three years of a joint government under a US brokered deal that divides the power between Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who draws political support from the Tajik community.

Ghani, a Pashtun, has been dogged by claims of favoritism and stoking tensions, allegations he vehemently denies.

The document is the second to have been leaked in months, and part of the wave of suspicions about Ghani’s commitment to balancing government appointments among ethnic groups.

Weeks ago, a memo from the administrative office of the president appeared to show positions being handed out with the intention of keeping power in the hands of Pashtuns while giving the appearance of diversity.

The government has suspended an official in connection to the leaked document and the attorney general’s office is investigating the issue.

Bashir Bezhen, a political analyst, said the “government leaders were all after weaving a crisis and managing it to increase their power and to benefit themselves and their team.

“Neighboring governments like Iran and Pakistan see their interests in such a situation because they benefit from ethnic discord here,” he told Arab News.

Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

This combination of the Oct. 2, 2017 file photos shows Indonesian Siti Aisyah, left, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, right, escorted by police as they leave a court hearing in Shah Alam, Malaysia, outside Kuala Lumpur. (AP)
Updated 15 August 2018

Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

  • Evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins
  • The women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Two Southeast Asian women on trial in Malaysia for the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother could be acquitted Thursday or called to enter their defense in a case that has gripped the world.
Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show.
They are the only two suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted. If the defense is called, the trial could take several more months.
If the women are acquitted, they may not be freed right away as prosecutors could still appeal the decision as well as push forward with separate charges for overstaying their visas.

Here’s a look at arguments that were raised during the trial:
Over the course of the six-month trial featuring testimony from 34 people, prosecutors laid out a bizarre murder plot they likened to something from a James Bond film.
They accused four North Koreans, suspected government agents with code names such as “Mr. Y” and “Grandpa” and later identified by police, of being the masterminds who recruited the women, trained them and provided them with VX. All four fled the country the same morning Kim was killed and none are in custody.
Airport security footage shown in court captured the moment of the attack and prosecutors said linked the women to the other suspects. Shortly after Kim arrived at the airport, Huong was seen approaching him, clasping her hands on his face from behind and then fleeing. Another blurred figure was also seen running away from Kim and a police investigator testified that it was Aisyah.
Investigators said the women were seen rushing to separate washrooms, each with their hands outstretched, before they fled the airport. Kim died within two hours of the attack.
A government chemist testified that the VX concentration found on Kim’s skin was 1.4 times greater than the lethal dosage. He said VX was found in Kim’s eyes, face, blood, urine and clothing, as well as on both women’s clothes and on Huong’s fingernail clippings.
In his closing arguments in June, prosecutor Wah Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said the women must have been trained to use VX, a rare nerve agent developed as a chemical weapon. He said they had to know the best route for VX to enter the victim’s body and know that they must wash the nerve agent off themselves within 15 minutes to avoid being contaminated.
With Kim a tall and heavy man, the prosecutor said the women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration. Despite their claim about a prank, he said their facial expressions and conduct during the attack didn’t reflect any humor.
“We expect that the defense will be called for a simple reason: They need to explain why VX was found on them,” Wan Shaharuddin told The Associated Press.

Lawyers for the two women say their clients were simply pawns in a politically motivated killing with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
They say the prosecution’s case was too simplistic, handicapped by a sloppy investigation and failed to show any intention on the part of their clients to kill — key to establishing the women’s guilt.
The defense said evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins, pointing out that they didn’t wear gloves when applying VX, didn’t dispose of their tainted clothing and didn’t flee the country.
The real culprits, the defense argues, are the four North Korean suspects. The four were captured by airport security cameras discarding their belongings and changing their clothing after the attack.
The North Korean Embassy has also been implicated with an embassy official helping get flights out for the four men and using the name of one of its citizens to buy a car that was used to take the suspects to the airport.
Nevertheless, Pyongyang has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that it was behind the killing. Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
“The prosecution’s evidence is purely circumstantial,” Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said, noting that there was no proof that his client applied VX on Kim. He said his client’s DNA was not found on a shirt recovered by police.
Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said they have given prosecution “a good fight.”
“We are confident that justice will be served on Thursday and (Huong) will be acquitted,” he said.