Afghan president faces flak for Eid truce offer

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 15, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 August 2018
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Afghan president faces flak for Eid truce offer

  • President Ashraf Ghani announced a three-month-long Eid truce with the Taliban on Sunday while marking Afghanistan's 99th Independence Day
  • The Taliban, in turn, announced the release of captured government soldiers on Eid Al-Adha but are silent over truce offer

KABUL: Taliban militants on Monday refrained from openly accepting, or rejecting, President Ashraf Ghani’s three-month-long conditional ceasefire. Dozens of Afghans, however, marched in protest in Kabul against Ghani’s offer, saying the insurgents did not deserve a truce.

The US, Britain, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are among countries that hailed President Ghani’s proposal, made on Sunday evening.

The Taliban had earlier accepted Ghani's truce offer during Eid Al-Fitr and announced a halt to fighting and thousands of them entered government-held areas to celebrate the post-Ramadan festival.

Spokesmen for the Taliban said their leadership had given no instruction whether the group will indeed declare a truce this time around.

The Taliban did say that several government troops captured by the insurgents would be freed on the occasion of Eid and that their release was not linked to Ghani's offer.

A spokesman for Ghani, Haroon Chakhansuri, said on Monday that no Taliban troops were among those the government plans to free on Eid Al-Adha.

Officials at the office of Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said no unilateral truce would be allowed along the pattern of last Eid. At that time, the Taliban observed only three days of ceasefire and attacked government forces across the country while the government enforced a longer truce.

Without the other side's willingness to halt fighting, the ceasefire would be meaningless, they said.

The spokesman for the government-appointed High Peace Council (HPC), Sayed Ehsan Taher, said the body’s findings showed that people wanted a permanent ceasefire between the government and the Taliban.

Afghan lawmakers claim the government seeks a prolonged truce because it is unable to hold both the parliamentary elections slated for October and the presidential election in six months’ time.
Despite international support for Ghani’s ceasefire offer, a group of people in Kabul, led by former intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, staged a protest against it.

“The Taliban only bring the forces of evil into our cities. They only bring death, destruction, and chaos,” one protester, Ejaz Malikzada, said.
Forgetting the crimes of Taliban militants is tantamount to participating in their crimes, said some of the lawmakers in Ghani's administration. Family members of hundreds and thousands of Taliban victims have neither forgiven nor forgotten the atrocities, said one of the lawmakers who asked for anonymity.
“Our city is our home, not a haven for filthy terrorists. The Taliban only bring death and destruction. In a matter of one week, Taliban terrorists murdered 1,000 Afghan National Security Forces and civilians. We cannot let all that blood go in vain,” said Saleh.
The protesters called on the general public not to allow the Taliban to enter government-held areas. Some locals in northern Baghlan province have even vowed to shoot any Taliban on sight if they enter government-held areas as they did the previous time.


“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

Updated 24 September 2018
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“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

LONDON: Leaving the European Union without a proper divorce deal could ground airlines, stop hauliers from lugging goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and even make headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, according to government documents.
With just six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that negotiations are at an impasse and that the EU must come up with new proposals on how to craft a divorce settlement.
Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Britain, which has warned it could leave without a deal, published 25 technical notices on Monday covering everything from commercial road haulage and buying timber to airline regulations and taking pets abroad.
“If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission,” the government said.
Overall, the government has published more than 65 such notices giving a glimpse of what a no-deal Brexit — the nightmare scenario for chief executives of most multinationals operating in Britain — would look like.
Amid warnings that trucks could stack up on both sides of the English Channel in the confusion of a no deal, Britain said it would seek to strike bilateral agreements with European countries to ensure hauliers would retain access.
The notices covered a vast swathe of the British economy, warning, for example, that labels on packaged food would have to be changed.
“Use of the term ‘EU’ in origin labelling would no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK,” the government said.
Honey producers would have to change their labels while EU countries might not accept British mineral water, the government said.
In the worse case scenario for pet owners, dogs, cats and even ferrets might need health certificates and rabies jabs. Travel plans would have to be discussed with a vet at least four months in advance before traveling to the EU.
That would mean someone wanting to take their pet to the EU on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves the bloc, would have to discuss the trip with a vet before the end of November.
Without a deal, the UK would move from seamless trade with the rest of the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states with no preferential deals.
Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say the government is trying to scare voters about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain, many Brexiteers say, will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.