Business booms ahead of Afghan election

Campaign poster of the parliamentary candidate Fida Mohammad Olfat Saleh, is displayed over the shops during the elections campaign for the upcoming election in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. (AP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Business booms ahead of Afghan election

  • Millions of dollars have been spent by some candidates during their month-long campaign, according to unofficial estimates

KABUL: If you want to hold a family function such as a birthday or wedding ceremony in Kabul’s posh hotels, you need to be patient and revise your schedule as they are usually booked up several weeks in advance.
The smell of food is often strong as you walk into these hotels, as thousands of kilograms of rice, meat, chicken and fruit are served daily.
The campaign for the Oct. 20 election has created a short-term boom for certain types of businesses in Kabul and other major cities. Many of the capital’s famous barbers and beauty salons have been working overtime in recent weeks and earning far more money than they normally do. So too have the media and advertising firms.
Millions of dollars have been spent by some candidates during their month-long campaign, according to unofficial estimates. Some even pay would-be voters and give them free food, but others cannot afford to do so. Candidate and former minister Ramazan Bashardost does not feed or pay people to vote. On the contrary, he sells his business cards to would-be voters to cover fuel money for his vehicle.
He urges them, “with a relaxed conscience,” to take food and cash from rich candidates, but to vote for those who have not enriched themselves via corruption.


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 27 min 57 sec ago
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.