Taliban, Afghan politicians to hold peace talks in Moscow

The Moscow meeting may isolate President Ghani from peace process. (Reuters)
Updated 03 February 2019

Taliban, Afghan politicians to hold peace talks in Moscow

  • President Ashraf Ghani not joining discussions in Russia
  • Mohammed Hanif Atmar, Ghani’s main rival for the presidency, will also attend the talks

KABUL: Taliban delegates will hold their first meeting with Afghan opposition figures in Moscow on Tuesday, in a move that could “isolate” President Ashraf Ghani from the peace process.

Government spokesman Sibghat Ahmadi said the talks were “not in Afghanistan’s interest,” and accused Moscow of breaking past pledges to Kabul to facilitate direct meetings with the insurgents.

The Taliban’s senior negotiator, Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanekzai, who represented them in discussions with US diplomats in Qatar in January, will lead the group’s delegation.

He, along with the Taliban’s ex-ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, will meet with Afghanistan’s former president, Hamid Karzai, and a number of powerful opposition politicians, including Atta Muhammad Noor and Mohammed Mohaqiq

Mohammed Hanif Atmar, Ghani’s main rival for the presidency, will also attend the talks.

“We consider this meeting in Moscow a significant step in intra-Afghan dialogue,” Atmar said in a statement.

Afghan lawyer Raihana Azad, who is also attending, doubted the discussions would result in any substantive outcome because the government was refusing to participate.

“We want lasting peace and want transparent discussions, but this meeting will not yield much as the government will be absent,” she told Arab News.

 

Understanding

The Russian Embassy in Kabul, meanwhile, said: “We hope that intra-Afghan dialogue will lead to understanding, and bring the warring sides in the conflict closer together.”

Zamir Kabulov, Moscow’s envoy to Afghanistan, is thought to have facilitated the meeting.

While Azad doubted its significance due to the government’s absence, some experts believe Ghani’s stance could backfire.

Political analyst Hamidullah Hotak said: “The government’s reluctance to attend the meeting will isolate it from the peace process.”

He added that Ghani, who is standing for re-election in July’s presidential race, had “failed to bring consensus among Afghans,” and wanted to control the peace process “to use as an achievement for his campaign.”

Due to objections from the Taliban, government representatives have also been excluded from recent talks between the group and US diplomats in recent months.

The Ghani administration had privately expressed anger at the US team, led by diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, for their failure to persuade the insurgents to allow them to attend. Tensions in Kabul are especially high, amid growing concern that President Donald Trump could push ahead with plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in the coming months.


Bangladesh MP caught cheating in public exam

Updated 8 min 16 sec ago

Bangladesh MP caught cheating in public exam

  • Her alleged deception came to light when a local TV station entered the exam hall and confronted one of the lookalikes during the exam

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi MP accused of sending proxy candidates to take her place in a public exam may lose her seat if found guilty of cheating and face criminal charges, officials told Arab News on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Tamanna Nusrat, who was studying for a bachelor’s degree at Bangladesh Open University (BOU), sent lookalikes at least 13 times to the exam hall on her behalf. 

A four-member investigation team at the university is probing the matter.

Her alleged deception came to light when a local TV station entered the exam hall and confronted one of the lookalikes during the exam. The clip went viral on social media.

Nusrat, who is from the ruling Awami League party and holds one of 50 parliamentary seats reserved for women, was unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News.

“We have already cancelled the enrolment of the alleged candidate as she committed a crime and she has been permanently expelled from the university,” Prof. M. A. Mannan, BOU vice chancellor, told Arab News.

“Our committee visited the examination centre on Tuesday. We are trying to find out how it happened repeatedly ... if Nusrat is found guilty we will file a criminal case against her.”

HIGHLIGHT

It is alleged that Tamanna Nusrat, who was studying for a bachelor’s degree at Bangladesh Open University, sent lookalikes at least 13 times to the exam hall on her behalf. 

He said the principal of the college, who was in charge of the exam hall, could not evade responsibility.

“If necessary we will go for stern action against the college principal also as it has tarnished the good will of our university.”

But locals said they were aware of the Nusrat lookalikes. 

“I have information from my cousin who was also in the exam at the same hall,” one resident told Arab News. “Although I shared the information with my close associates, we couldn’t do anything against these irregularities as it involves a member of Parliament who is holding much influence.”

The Awami League has come down hard on the lookalike allegations, with Deputy Minister of Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury saying “no mercy” would be shown.

“Our party will not take any responsibility for any misdeeds or crime committed by the individual or party members,” he told Arab News. “I have asked the university management to run the enquiry independently without any fear and if she is found guilty the university authorities will file a criminal case in this regard.” 

 

He added: “Cheating in public exams is a criminal offense according to the law of the country. If she is convicted by the court eventually she will lose her membership in Parliament.”

Women’s participation in Bangladesh politics is still low, even though the ruling party and opposition are led by women. The total number of women currently in Parliament is 72.

Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina has led the country four times, while arch-rival Khaleda Zia has been prime minister three times.