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.


Ex-Goldman banker to finish Malaysia legal process before US extradition

Updated 27 min 9 sec ago
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Ex-Goldman banker to finish Malaysia legal process before US extradition

  • Goldman’s role is under scrutiny as the Wall Street titan helped arrange $6.5 billion in bonds for 1MDB
  • Authorities in Malaysia and the US accuse former employees of bribery and stealing billions of dollars

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: A former Goldman Sachs banker accused of involvement in the multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal will only be extradited to the United States after legal proceedings against him in Malaysia are completed, a minister said.
Huge sums of public money were purportedly stolen from Malaysian state fund 1MDB and used to buy everything from yachts to art in a scheme that allegedly involved former premier Najib Razak and contributed to his government’s election defeat.
Goldman’s role is under scrutiny as the Wall Street titan helped arrange $6.5 billion in bonds for 1MDB. Authorities in Malaysia and the US accuse former employees of bribery and stealing billions of dollars, and investigators believe cash was laundered through the US financial system.
Malaysian Ng Chong Hwa, a former managing director at the bank, was indicted in November when US authorities also lodged an extradition request. He has been in custody in Malaysia since the US indictment.
Malaysia also filed charges against Ng, more commonly known as Roger Ng, as well as Goldman.
At a court hearing last week, Ng agreed to stop fighting the extradition request and said he wanted to be sent to the US within 30 days.
But Malaysia’s government must approve his extradition, and Interior Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Ng’s case in Malaysia must go ahead first.
“We will honor the extradition but we will prioritize the case in Malaysia until it is completed. This is the advice of the attorney-general, and we will abide by it,” Yassin said.
Ng’s case will likely come before the Malaysian courts again next month, he said.
Ng was charged in Malaysia in December with four counts related to 1MDB, and has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 40 years in jail if convicted.
As well as Ng, former Goldman partner Tim Leissner and the bank’s subsidiaries are also accused of making false statements in order to steal billions of dollars, and of bribing officials.
Leissner has already pleaded guilty in the US to 1MDB-linked charges.