Human Rights Watch demands action against new Afghan defense minister

Assadullah Khalid, Afghan defense minister, speaking to Brig. Gen. Guy Laroche of Canada in Kandahar in 2008. (AP)
Updated 12 January 2019

Human Rights Watch demands action against new Afghan defense minister

  • Campaigners call for prosecution of Assadullah Khalid for human rights abuses and war crimes

KABUL: Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Saturday for the prosecution of new Afghan defense minister Assadullah Khalid over what it termed grave rights abuses and war crimes.

In a statement, the group said Khalid’s appointment by President Ashraf Ghani last month “should have rung alarm bells not only in Kabul, but in the capitals of Afghanistan’s major donors.”

“Credible evidence of serious human rights abuses and war crimes linked to Khalid have followed him throughout his government career,” HRW said. “Reports first came to light during Khalid’s tenure as governor of Kandahar – a time when thousands of Canadian troops were based in the province.”

Khalid’s office made no immediate comment to the HRW statement. 

Officials with HRW had expressed concern immediately after Khalid’s appointment but Saturday’s statement detailed the alleged abuses.

Khalid, a former spy chief, has also served as governor for Ghazni province and was badly wounded by a Taliban suicide bomber in 2012. He is known to oppose the Taliban and is considered a virulently anti-Pakistan figure. 

He was picked by President Ghani as defense minister last month following a rise in deadly attacks by the Taliban against Afghan troops and after insurgents refused direct talks with the Kabul government to end the 18-year-long war in Afghanistan. 

“An official internal Canadian document described the allegations of human rights abuses attributable to Khalid as numerous and consistent,” the statement said. 

Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin had testified before a Canadian parliamentary commission in 2009 that Khalid perpetrated enforced disappearances and held people in private prisons. 

“The testimony included evidence of Khalid’s personal involvement in the torture of detainees. Chris Alexander, a senior Canadian official working with the United Nations in Afghanistan at the time, alleged that Khalid ordered the killing of five UN workers in a roadside bombing in Kandahar in April 2007.”

The statement further noted that there was also strong evidence directly implicating Khalid in acts of sexual violence against women and girls when he was governor of Ghazni and Kandahar. Khalid allegedly threatened his victims, saying “they would be killed and their families destroyed if they told anyone what had happened.” 

“Ghani’s opportunistic and callous move in appointing Khalid appears aimed to score short-term gains in the upcoming presidential election,” HRW said. 

Ghani’s office did not answer repeated calls seeking comment. 

HRW said the Afghan government had proved unwilling to criminally investigate Khalid, but Afghanistan’s donors could act.

“The US and Canada have authority under their respective Magnitsky laws to impose sanctions on any foreign official against whom there is credible evidence of responsibility for serious human rights abuses,” the statement said. 

“These sanctions include freezing their assets and banning them from entry. The European Union and other donors should impose similar sanctions to send a clear message that returning a known human rights abuser to a position of authority is simply unacceptable.”


Sharif awaits UK flight go-ahead for urgent medical treatment

Updated 12 November 2019

Sharif awaits UK flight go-ahead for urgent medical treatment

  • Sharif's name had still to be removed from the country’s Exit Control List

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ailing former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was on Monday awaiting the go-ahead to travel to the UK for urgent medical treatment.

However, the 69-year-old’s name had still to be removed from the country’s Exit Control List (ECL) after his release on bail last month from a seven-year sentence for corruption, due to his ongoing health problems.

According to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, Sharif had been allowed by the government to get medical treatment outside Pakistan, but the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), was still considering his no-fly status, which if cleared would then require endorsement from the Ministry of Interior.

Sharif, who has dominated Pakistani politics for three decades and was premier three times, has denied the corruption charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

“All the arrangements for his treatment abroad have been finalized, and we are now just waiting for the government to remove his name from the ECL,” the PML-N party chairman, Raja Zafarul Haq, told Arab News on Sunday.

Haq said Sharif’s younger brother and PML-N president, Shehbaz Sharif, and his personal doctor, Adnan Khan, would travel with him to London.

FASTFACT

Nawaz Sharif, who was Pakistan’s prime minister three times, has denied the corruption charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

Sharif had been scheduled to leave Pakistan for Britain at 9:05 a.m. on Monday with a private airline but was delayed because of the ECL decision hold-up.

On Friday, the Pakistani government granted Sharif permission to go abroad after Shehbaz requested the Ministry of Interior to remove his brother’s name from the ECL.

“The Ministry of Interior has taken all necessary actions keeping in view the urgency of the matter as pleaded by Shehbaz Sharif in his request,” a ministry statement had said.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi added on Friday that doctors had recommended Sharif be sent abroad for further examination. “If that is what the medical treatment requires, the government has been positive,” he told Reuters. “The prime minister (Imran Khan) has said everything possible should be done to show his life is protected.”

Asked if Sharif might be trying to leave Pakistan to seek a second period in exile, Qureshi said: “If their hands are clean, why should they be running away? I hope he recovers. When he recovers, why should he be sticking around in London? There’s no logic, there’s no reason for that.”