Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia display unity, closeness on Kingdom’s National Day 

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Mohammad Khan, Afghanistan's first deputy chief executive, slices the celebration cake with Ambassador Al-Khalidi.  (AN photo)
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Saudi Ambassador Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Khalidi speaks with the wife of the US ambassador to Kabul. (AN photo)
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Saudi Ambassador Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Khalidi escorts arriving former Afghan President Sibghatullah Mojadidi across the hotel hallway. (AN photo)
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Saudi Ambassador Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Khalidi delivers his speech. (AN photo)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia display unity, closeness on Kingdom’s National Day 

  • Unlike past celebrations, Sunday’s event was more elaborate one, from previous  gatherings

KABUL: Standing on the path way that leads to the spacious yard of Serena hotel in Kabul, Saudi’s new ambassador to Afghanistan Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Khalidi, welcomed local and foreign guests as they thronged to attend the kingdom’s 88th National Day.

But with his watchful eyes, he and his two embassy staff left the pathway and rushed past the doorway to embrace some Afghan former and current politicians as well as leaders whenever they arrived on Sunday evening.

As guests arrived, Arabic national music videos showed Arab men in traditional attire, brandishing swords on a big TV screen. 

Later, a video aired delivery of kingdom’s aid to various Islamic countries, including Yemen.

Apart from a number of foreign diplomats, including the US ambassador, other guests were a former Afghan President Sibghatullah Mojadidi and members of factions that Saudi provided military and financial assistance during the war against the ex-Soviet Union.

There were few women and a former Taliban official who currently serves as an official in President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

Unlike past celebrations, Sunday’s event was more elaborate one, from previous  gatherings.

The national anthem of the two nations were played.

A giant billboard displaying the images of King Abdulaziz, founder of the kingdom, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, on one side and those of Ghani and his chief executive, Dr. Abdullah at its other end.

Both Ambassador Al-Khalidi and the top Afghan official attending the event, Mohammad Khan who serves as first deputy chief executive, spoke about the importance of historical bond between Kabul and Riyadh.

“On this occasion, I would like to mention the distinguished historical relations between the two countries. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, whose roots extend to the beginning of the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Khalidi told the guests.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia paying great attention towards its bilateral relations with the brother country Afghanistan at various levels in order to achieve peace & security and well-being of its people and actively participates in the international conferences relevant to the Afghan Affairs,” 

Al-Khalidi has been in this posting since May and enjoys more respect in the government compared to his predecessors, according to two foreign ministry officials.

Khan thanked Saudi for its new aid projects in Afghanistan that includes building of a ring-road in Kabul, two main hospitals, four clinics, a center for the country’s clergies and cash for Afghan returning refugees.

“We in the regional and world affairs have equal and close view with Saudi,” he said suggesting Afghanistan wanted that the Islamic countries, particularly, the Gulf nations settle their problem through understanding and talks.


Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

Updated 50 min 4 sec ago
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Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

  • Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately
  • Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations.

Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately. Others continued toward Central, a key business and retail district and the site of the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-ins.

Large protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the bill. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in city.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of 'one country, two systems.' Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday’s march from a public park, carrying a large banner that read 'Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.' 'Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!' the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.

“I think the government has never responded to our demands,” said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since last month. “No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly.”

Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march’s organizers. Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month.

Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a 'riot' and dissolving the Legislative Council.                   

Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday. “We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies,” they said, “but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people.”

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building.

Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.