Doubts over Afghan peace process and presidential poll

Afghan president's special peace envoy Mohammad Omer Daudzai speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (AP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Doubts over Afghan peace process and presidential poll

  • The Taliban has said it will talk to Kabul once the issue of foreign troop presence is settled

KABUL: Bashir Bezhen was among the first people to receive packages containing information for would-be Afghan presidential candidates. However, like many presidential hopefuls including incumbent Ashraf Ghani, he has yet to register.
Ghani’s unwillingness to register, according to Bezhen, casts doubt over the likelihood of holding an already-postponed presidential poll. There are fears the election could be delayed even further, beyond the revised date of July 20.
The uncertainty comes as US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad pushes for progress on peace talks with the Taliban and how to hold elections with the armed group’s participation.
Meanwhile, Kabul appears to have been sidelined in discussions about the country’s fate, with international stakeholders increasing their engagement with the Taliban and the US unilaterally mulling a drawdown of troops.
“Generally there are ambiguities and doubts about the peace process, especially when the government seems lost in the process and acts emotionally,” Bezhen told Arab News.
“These ambiguities have also affected the process of elections with fear of further delay and talk of an interim government. I have not registered (as a nominee) and the president like many others has not either. This shows people are skeptical.” He said that the involvement of foreign powers — and their pursuit of different agendas in the war-torn country — was also complicating the picture. “Too many butchers spoil the cow,” he added, recalling an old Afghan proverb.
Ghani has previously insisted he wants an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. His officials have also warned that nobody else can decide the fate of Afghanistan.
The Taliban has said it will talk to Kabul once the issue of foreign troop presence is settled.
Seddiqa Mubarez, a pro-government lawmaker, said keeping Kabul away from the talks showed it was the US that held influence over war and peace.
“The situation has become complex and people feel even more disappointed about the future,” she told Arab News.
Some have backed the idea of an interim government, believing it would reduce Ghani’s chance of winning the election.
Abdul Satar Saadat, who until recently was a legal adviser to the president, accused Ghani of sabotaging the peace process for his own ends.
“He (Ghani) wanted to bring peace and at the same time save his power too, but when he understood peace isn’t coming so easily, he is trying to sabotage it,” he told Arab News.
“He also doesn’t like Khalilzad as he thinks Khalilzad is an Afghan and at the end of the day he will be a hero, not Ghani. This leads to his fear that he will lose power and the credit for peace.”
He also said the Taliban was not gunning for peace because it believed it was close to winning the war as a US withdrawal loomed.
Neither Ghani nor Taliban officials returned calls for comment at the time of publication.


Women cleared of defamation in French sexual misconduct case

In this Sept. 21, 2014 file photo, Denis Baupin, a prominent Green Party member and former Paris city official, takes part in a climate change demonstration in Paris. (AP)
Updated 20 April 2019
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Women cleared of defamation in French sexual misconduct case

  • The court considered that the women and journalists acted in good faith, which is a defense for defamation under French law

PARIS: A Paris court has dismissed a defamation case against six women who accused a former French lawmaker of sexual misconduct and the journalists who reported the allegations.
The court on Friday ordered Denis Baupin to pay 1,000 euros ($1,120) in damages to each of the 12 people he sued.
In May 2016, investigative website Mediapart and radio station France Inter published and broadcast accounts from 14 women who alleged Baupin had groped, sexted or otherwise harassed them.
The prominent Green Party member resigned as vice president of the lower House of Parliament but denied wrongdoing and launched a defamation lawsuit against the six women who were identified in the reports, some witnesses and journalists.
The case had been under particular scrutiny in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Women rights activists have seen it as a test of French women’s ability to speak out when they think powerful men have sexually harassed or abused them — and how journalists can report it.
The court considered that the women and journalists acted in good faith, which is a defense for defamation under French law.
In addition, it considered France Inter and Mediapart respected their additional obligations: the legitimacy of journalists’ goals in producing a story, demonstrating an absence of personal animosity, prudence and balance, and the quality of the investigation.
Most of the women who spoke about Baupin’s alleged behavior from 1998 to 2013 were fellow Green Party members, and outrage greeted their descriptions.
Four filed criminal complaints for sexual harassment at the time. A nine-month judicial investigation ended without charges. Prosecutors said the three-year statute of limitations had expired, but released a statement saying the women’s “measured, constant statements” and witness corroboration created a set of facts to support allegations of actions that “may for some of them be classified as criminal.”
The cleared women greeted the ruling with tears of joy and relief.
Lawyer Claire Moleon, a lawyer for one of them, told The Associated Press that “this is a great victory.”
“This is a very strong signal given by justice. It’s putting an end to a move that we were noticing to use defamation lawsuits to put more pressure on the victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse,” she said.
Moleon stressed that Baupin’s order to pay damages to the people he sent on trial shows that “sanctions apply” to such cases.
During the February trial, women had described, often with lots of emotion, their alleged harassment through text messages and inappropriate comments, and in some cases, alleged sexual assault attempts.
Some former officials of France’s Green Party also testified in court, saying they should have acted earlier on reports of sexual misconduct. They stressed that the #MeToo movement has raised their awareness.
Baupin’s lawyer Emmanuel Pierrat, had argued his client did nothing illegal and had filed a defamation lawsuit to “fully clear his name.”
Baupin had decided not to attend the trial.