Afghanistan to build $2 billion airport in Taliban-dominated province

Afghanistan to build $2 billion airport in Taliban-dominated province
The Afghan government is planning to open a new international airport in Logar province. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 February 2021

Afghanistan to build $2 billion airport in Taliban-dominated province

Afghanistan to build $2 billion airport in Taliban-dominated province
  • Located 45 km south of Kabul, the airport is expected to become operational by 2024
  • It will be built near the Ainak Copper mine, an area where government forces routinely come under Taliban attack

KABUL: The Afghan government is planning to open a new international airport in a Taliban-dominated eastern province to transform the region into an air travel hub, the country’s aviation regulator said on Friday.
The project, estimated to cost $2 billion, was already planned in the 1970s by then-President Mohammad Daud Khan, whose killing in a coup in 1978 marked the beginning of Afghanistan’s civil war and foreign invasions that have consequently destroyed the country’s infrastructure.
To be constructed in Logar province, some 45 km south of Kabul, the airport is expected to become operational by 2024, Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mohammad Naeem Salehi told Arab News on Friday.
“The airport will transform Afghanistan’s central zone into one of Afghanistan’s main aerial hubs and will connect it to the regional and world markets,” he said, adding that the project’s feasibility assessment was recently completed by an Italian company.
The new airport will be an alternative to the main international port in the heart of Kabul, which was built in the 1970s and cannot be expanded.
“The total cost of the airport will stand at $2 billion and will be covered by the government of Afghanistan,” Salehi said, adding: “It will be an international standard airport, used annually by 10 million passengers with a capacity of 100,000 tons of cargo.”
The airport will be built in the desert of Mohammad Agha district of Logar, near the Ainak Copper mine, an area where the Taliban have enjoyed a long presence and where government forces routinely come under attack.
The province is also the hometown of President Ashraf Ghani.
“We have enough security forces on the ground in the area for the protection of the project and in addition to this local people are cooperating on this,” Logar provincial council chief Hassibullah Stanekzai told Arab News.
“This is a national project on Afghanistan’s level and the Taliban will never hinder it,” he said.
While the Taliban could not be immediately reached for comment, analysts see challenges for the project to materialize.
“The building of an airport in Logar is a laudable project, but we have to note that Logar is a very volatile province,” analyst Tameem Bahiss told Arab News.
“With the deteriorating security situation in Logar and the corruption in Kabul, this project will be very challenging,” he said.
Former government adviser Torek Farhadi praised the project, but said it should not be a priority for Kabul as “securing access and securing the airport’s perimeter will be key to convincing international airlines to land there.”
He added: “In the long run, we hope for peace in Afghanistan so it can be completed as an international hub. Security right now doesn’t allow for that.”
Farhadi said that even top government officials cannot travel by car to Logar as the security situation is so dire.


6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece
Updated 03 March 2021

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

6.3-magnitude earthquake hits central Greece

ATHENS: A strong 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit central Greece on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey said, prompting residents in the city of Larissa to rush into the streets according to local media.
The Institute of Geodynamics in Athens said the quake, which could be felt across central and northern Greece, had measured at a magnitude of 6.0.
According to the Athens observatory, the epicentre of the quake was 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of the town of Elassona, near Larissa.


Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca
Updated 03 March 2021

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca

Made in India: Ministers, officials prefer locally-developed vaccine over AstraZeneca
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier opted for an Indian-made COVID-19 vaccine

NEW DELHI: Government ministers and officials were following Prime Minister Narendra Modi lead by opting on Tuesday for an Indian-made COVID-19 vaccine approved without late-stage efficacy data, instead of the AstraZeneca one.
India’s health, foreign and law ministers, and state governors, all flocked to Twitter to express support for the much-criticized Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN vaccine, after it was administered to Modi on Monday.
“Made-in-India vaccines are 100% safe,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said after being inoculated with COVAXIN.
Many state officials and doctors have refused to take COVAXIN before its effectiveness could be proved. Bharat Biotech says it has completed the late-stage trial and results will be out this month.
The company said the endorsement by Modi and other ministers would set an example for other Indians and reduce “vaccine hesitancy.” It is seeking to sell COVAXIN to countries including Brazil and the Philippines.
COVAXIN and the AstraZeneca vaccines were approved by India’s regulator in January. The government has distributed to states a total of 50 million doses of the vaccines but only 12 percent of the 12 million people immunized so far have taken COVAXIN, according to government data.


Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police
Updated 03 March 2021

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

Explosion hits Dutch COVID-19 testing center, no injuries — police

AMSTERDAM: Dutch police on Wednesday said a coronavirus testing location north of Amsterdam appeared to have been intentionally targeted after an explosion went off at the location before the site opened.

The blast in the town of Bovenkarspel, 55 km north of the capital, shattered windows but caused no injuries, police from the province of North Holland said in a statement.

They said they had cordoned off the area to investigate.

The explosive “must have been placed” there, police spokesman Menno Hartenberg told Reuters, adding that “something metal” had caused the explosion.

“We don't know yet exactly what exploded, the explosives experts must first investigate,” Hartenberg said.

“What we're saying is that something like that doesn't just happen by accident, it has to be laid,” he spokesman said.


Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority
Updated 03 March 2021

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority

Pakistan Senate election kicks off as Imran Khan’s ruling party looks for majority
  • Imran Khan’s coalition does not have a majority in the Senate, needed to pass key legislation

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The ruling party of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his political allies will seek to wrest control of Pakistan’s Senate from opposition parties on Wednesday in indirect elections to 37 seats in the 104-member upper house of the country’s parliament.
Though his party won the 2018 general election, Khan’s coalition does not have a majority in the Senate, needed to pass key legislation – including legal reforms sought by global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and money laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“They have difficulty in legislating, and many laws are stuck,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, head of the independent research organization PILDAT, said.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which translates into Pakistan Movement for Justice, has 12 seats in the Senate, and the two main opposition parties Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) have 12 and 25 seats each.
PTI is looking to go up to 25 seats after the elections, and, along with other coalition parties and independents, have a slender majority in the Senate.
The electoral college for the Senate elections, which are held every three years on half of the chamber’s strength, comprises Pakistan’s four provincial assemblies and the lower house of parliament.
With opposition parties controlling the Senate, the government has had to pass interim legislation through Presidential Ordinances, which expire in 120 days.
The government’s legislators and allies in the lower house of parliament will vote on making Khan’s finance minister, Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, a senator. The result could show how much confidence there is in the administration.
“It could determine who has a majority in parliament... it will be an embarrassment for the government, and could even lead to seeking a fresh vote of confidence,” Mehboob said.
The lead up to the potentially pivotal election has been marked by the government and opposition charging each other with seeking votes through unfair means.


Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan
Updated 03 March 2021

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan

Daesh claims responsibility for attack on media workers in eastern Afghanistan
  • Daesh fighters targeted three female employees of a television station

Daesh claimed responsibility for an attack that killed three female media workers in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday evening.
The militant group, which has a presence in Afghanistan, said its fighters had targeted the three female employees of a television station in the eastern city of Jalalabad, according to SITE Intelligence group.
Three women who worked for Enikas TV aged between 18 and 20 had died and a fourth was critically injured after being shot on their way home from work, Afghan officials had said.