October was the first month of the country’s new National Unity Government. President Ghani kick-started his reform agenda by making some early appointments and decisions. Qamaruddin Shinwari was appointed as the new Attorney General and the resignation of Abdul Salam Azimi was accepted. He had been the country’s Chief of Supreme Court since 2006. President Ghani also announced that he would appoint Afghanistan’s first female member of the Supreme Court. Also, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the Chief Executive Officer, chaired the new cabinet’s first meeting.
On the 1st, President Ghani ordered the re-opening of the Kabul Bank corruption case. This $900 million fraud took place in 2010 and involved several key bank shareholders including brothers of the former president and vice-president. In another anti-corruption move, the Attorney General referred the corruption cases of five former ministers to the Supreme Court. Though the deadline set by the President to resolve these cases seems ambitious, the reopening was welcomed by anti-corruption activists.
On the 3rd, British Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to Afghanistan and reconfirmed the UK’s pledges to support Afghanistan’s military and civilian projects. The UK and Afghanistan are co-hosting the London Conference on Afghanistan in early December to shore up international support for the country. Around 70 foreign ministers and representatives of international agencies and Afghan civil society will be invited.
In his first foreign trip, Ghani visited Saudi Arabia, where he performed religious pilgrimage and met the Saudi Crown Prince. Ghani emphasised the role of Saudi Arabia in peace talks with the Taliban. On the 27th, Ghani went on a four-day visit to China where he met Chinese leaders and investors. China promised to give $327 million of development aid to Afghanistan through to 2017 and train 3,000 Afghan professionals over the next five years. This shows increased Chinese involvement, as the nation previously committed a smaller $250 million to Afghanistan over the last 13 years.
On the 25th, the Independent Elections Commission announced the results of the provincial council elections almost seven months after the vote. The fate of 458 provincial seats was decided, with women securing 21% of them. The process was mired with allegations of corruption, casting doubt on the Commission’s ability to hold free and fair parliamentary elections next year.
Security remained a key concern in October. While Kabul alone witnessed 6 suicide attacks, 2 roadside bomb explosions, and 2 rocket attacks, Southern and Eastern provinces saw increased Taliban activity and assassinations of district officials.
On the 2nd, the Taliban leader Mullah Omar claimed victory against NATO in his Eid message and urged Taliban fighters to continue their fight against the Afghan government. Meanwhile it was reported that US combat aircrafts dropped more bombs on the Taliban and other militant targets in August than it had in any single month over the last two years, signalling an intensification of airstrikes leading up to withdrawal.
On the 26th, the United Kingdom’s war in Afghanistan officially came to an end after 13 years, as the control of Camp Bastion in Helmand was handed over to Afghan troops. 453 British servicemen and women died in the war. The security situation of Sangin district in Helmand has continued to worsen. Some Afghan MPs stated that all Afghan security forces checkpoints were now in the Taliban’s control.
On the 5th, President Ghani overturned the ruling made by his predecessor’s administration, allowing NYT reporter, Matthew Rosenburg to return and work freely in the country. In a different event, an editorial in the Afghanistan Express criticising Islam as an intrinsically violent religion sparked protests in Kabul and Jalalabad. Protestors called for blasphemy charges against the staff of the newspaper and chanted ‘down with democracy’ slogans.
Cases of violence against women and girls continued to be reported from different parts of the country. On the 17th, police found the bodies of four women on a roadside in Farah. The motive behind the murders has not been clear, however officials suggest the women were killed over adultery accusations. In Khost, it was reported that in-laws often take out their resentment on newly wedded brides because of their high price of marriage and the resultant financial strain on their finances.
On the 7th, UN and international rights organisations called on President Ghani to withhold the executions of the accused in the Paghman rape case. However the executions took place a day later. It was the first widely reported execution of criminals. On a more positive note, a Mullah accused of raping Brishna, a 10-year-old student in Kunduz last May, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and payment of a fine for 1.5 million Afghanis (£16,500).
Transparency in Afghanistan was questioned again on the 9th. Publish What You Fund claimed that 60% of the 1,000 construction projects in 30 districts were incomplete and their financial resources embezzled. Another report by TOLOnews found that members of the Independent Election Commission used the organisation’s budget to fund family members’ medical care in India, make questionable expenditures such as buying iPhone sets and dry nuts, and enjoy unnecessary housing benefits. In a positive development, Chief Justice Abdul Rashid Rashid announced on the 29th, that in the last month, 200 judges and 600 employees in the judiciary were fired on account of bribery and abuse of power.
On the 30th, the World Bank announced that Afghanistan has become a better place for investment, but big challenges still remain. In the list of unfriendly countries for investment, Afghanistan now ranks 7th - an improvement from last year’s 4th position. Singapore was ranked the top investment-friendly country for the ninth time in a row.
HelpAge International ranked Afghanistan the worst country to live in as an older person for the second consecutive time. In its Global AgeWatch Index, the wellbeing of the elderly was examined. Afghanistan performed worst in the health sector followed by lack of social pension. Norway stood on the other end of the pole.
Culture and people
In a rather radical move, Yousuf Kargar, the national football team's coach announced the dismissal of all national team members. He said only those fulfilling the criteria will be allowed to rejoin. Despite Kargar’s dissatisfaction, last year Afghanistan’s football team brought home the South Asian championship cup for the first time.
On the 20th, the annual social media summit was held in Kabul. Among other issues, a panel discussed the role of social media in the 2014 elections. Critics thought it was divisive but it also created political momentum among Afghans from all corners of the world and warded off more fraud. Jawed Faisal, a panellist reflected ‘everyone was a journalist during elections. People uncovered fraud by posting pictures and videos on social media.’ On a related move, on the 5th, an award ceremony was held in Kandahar for ‘Mr Facebook’. A local entrepreneur had set it up to encourage youth activism through social media.
On the 7th, Kabul hosted its first glitzy music awards ceremony, the Rumi Awards. The red carpet was rolled out in Babur Gardens for a glamorous array of pop stars, film stars and journalists. Nessar Bahaduri, one of the organisers, said the ceremony was designed ‘to show a different face of Afghanistan to the world’. BBC’s Kawoon Khamoosh reported that ‘as the succession of stars in glittering evening dress hit the red carpet, it was clear that they had succeeded’.
This report is developed based on media reports. Although BAAG has taken necessary precautions to include only credible sources, it does not take responsibility for the incorrectness of content.