Afghan general bans Pakistani rupee in southern province

Gen. Abdul Raziq, Kandahar police chief, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (AP)
Updated 08 August 2016

Afghan general bans Pakistani rupee in southern province

KANDAHAR: A senior Afghan police official regarded as one of the country’s most powerful men has banned the use of the Pakistani currency in the key southern province of Kandahar.
The police chief of Kandahar, Gen. Abdul Raziq, said he has declared the use of the Pakistani rupee in business transactions a crime. But he says he hasn’t yet decided on the punishment.
The rupee has been widely used in Afghanistan’s eastern and southern provinces bordering Pakistan. The Iranian currency is used in the western border provinces.
“I’m not against business, but I don’t want any other currency to be used in our country, especially the Pakistan and Iranian currencies,” Raziq told The Associated Press Sunday.
Raziq’s ban came into effect last week. Traders said it had an immediate effect, with the afghani strengthening in recent days.
“This is very good news, as people have been confused about what currency they should use and keep,” said Kandahar tribal elder and businessman, Ahmad Shah Khan.
He said the afghani had strengthened to 560 for 1,000 Pakistani rupees, from 630 per 1,000 before the ban. The official Central Bank exchange rate Sunday was 622 per 1,000. The afghani has also strengthened against the dollar, from 68 to 65 since the ban was introduced, traders said. The official rate is currently 67.5 afghanis to the dollar.
Azrakhsh Hafizi, the head of the international relations committee of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce welcomed Raziq’s decision and urged officials nationwide to adopt the ban of foreign currencies.
The use of the US dollar in transactions elsewhere in the country, including the capital Kabul, should also be banned, Hafizi said.
“The central bank almost every week buys afghanis in the market in order to maintain the stability of the Afghan currency but if we used only the Afghan currency all over the country there would be no need,” he said.
Raziq’s move coincides with a cooling of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan following the breakdown of a peace process initiated last year by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the apparent failure by Pakistani authorities to move against Taliban leaders believed by Kabul to enjoy refuge over the border.
Taliban leaders moved into Pakistan when the US invaded in 2001, ending their brutal five-year rule of Afghanistan. They are widely believed to live under Pakistan’s protection and to direct their war against Kabul, now in its 15th year, from cities including Quetta and Peshawar.
Raziq said the currency ban is in retaliation against Pakistan’s protection of the Taliban, a charge Pakistan denies.
“Pakistan is not only using bombs against us, they use every other tactic they can to destroy us — and that includes our businessman,” he said. Pakistani authorities have held up Afghan goods, including fresh produce, at border points until the fruit and vegetables rotted, Raziq said.
There are signs that Afghanistan is starting to look elsewhere for imported products as a way of pressuring Pakistani authorities into complying with Afghan demands that they force the Taliban into talks to end the war.
Wheat imports, which totaled 2.4 million tons last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture, have traditionally come from Pakistan. But an increase in the customs duty charged by Afghan authorities has cut imports from Pakistan, with the business now going to Central Asian states.
Hafizi said the value of imports from Pakistan had fallen by $700 million since the start of the current financial year in January.
Afghanistan is in the depths of an economic crisis, with gross domestic product growth close to zero and the government’s plans for boosting growth and creating jobs stalled by its inability to improve the security situation.


US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women

Updated 18 September 2020

US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women

  • The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said
  • Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages

KABUL, Afghanistan: The US Embassy in Afghanistan is warning that extremists groups are planning attacks against a “variety of targets” but are taking particular aim at women.
The warning issued late Thursday doesn’t specify the organizations plotting the attacks, but it comes as the Taliban and government-appointed negotiators are sitting together for the first time to try to find a peaceful end to decades of relentless war.
The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press on Friday.
Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages with participants still hammering out what items on the agenda will be negotiated and when.
Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said at the start of negotiations last weekend that spoilers existed on both sides. He said that some among Afghanistan’s many leaders would be content to continue with the status quo rather than find a peaceful end to the war that might involve power sharing.
According to the embassy warning, “extremist organizations continue to plan attacks against a variety of targets in Afghanistan, including a heightened risk of attacks targeting female government and civilian workers, including teachers, human rights activists, office workers, and government employees.”
The embassy did not provide specifics, including how imminent is the threat.
The Taliban have been harshly criticized for their treatment of women and girls during their five-year rule when the insurgent group denied girls access to school and women to work outside their home. The Taliban rule ended in 2001 when a US-led coalition ousted the hard-line regime for its part in sheltering Al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
One of the government-appointed peace negotiators, Fawzia Koofi, a strong, outspoken proponent of women’s rights, was shot last month in Afghanistan, but escaped serious injuries and attended the opening of negotiations last weekend. The Taliban quickly denied responsibility and Khalilzad again warned of the dangers to the process.
The United States has said that perhaps one of the most dangerous extremist groups operating in Afghanistan is the Islamic State affiliate, headquartered in the country’s east and held responsible for some of the most recent attacks. The IS affiliate has declared war on minority Shiite Muslims and has claimed credit for horrific attacks targeting them.
The United Nations as well as Afghanistan’s many international allies have stressed the need for any peace deal to protect the rights of women and minorities. Negotiations are expected to be difficult and protracted and will also include constitutional changes, disarming the tens of thousands of the Taliban as well as militias loyal to warlords, some of whom are allied with the government.
The advances for women made since 2001 have been important. Women are now members of parliament, girls have the right to education, women are in the workforce and their rights are enshrined in the constitution. Women are also seen on television, playing sports and winning science fairs.
But the gains are fragile, and their implementation has been erratic, largely unseen in rural areas where most Afghans still live.
The 2018 Women, Peace and Security Index rated Afghanistan as the second worst place in the world to be a woman, after Syria. Only 16% of the labor force are women, one of the lowest rates in the world, and half of Afghanistan’s women have had four years or less of education, according to the report, which was compiled by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. Only around half of school-aged girls go to school, and only 19% of girls under 15 are literate, according to the UN children’s agency.
Nearly 60% of girls are married before they are 19, on average between 15 and 16 years old, to spouses selected by their parents, according to UNICEF.
Until now, parliament has been unable to ratify a bill on the protection of women.
There are also Islamic hard-liners among the politically powerful in Kabul, including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is the inspiration behind the Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a US-designated militant who made peace with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in 2016.