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Empowering women in Afghanistan
The subject of empowerment of women has become a burning issue all over the world including Afghanistan since the last fifteen years. Many agencies of United Nations in their reports have emphasized that gender issue is to be given utmost priority.  The international community has also been involved to help Afghan women get their due rights. Inequalities between men and women and discrimination against women have also been age-old issues all over the world.  Thus, women’s quest for equality with man is a universal phenomenon.  What exists for men is demanded by women.   When we speak about women’s rights and women equality with men, we mean, women equality with men in matters of education, employment, marriage, politics, and health services.  People should not be confused with the term “equality between men and women”.   Women want to have for themselves the same strategies of change which men have had over the centuries such as equal pay for equal work. Women should be allowed to make their own choices as men are.  It is not fair to pay a man more than a woman for the same and equal task.  And it is not fair to force a woman to marry a man of not her choice and against her will.  Women should not be deprived of education because of being a woman.  Their quest for equality has given birth to the formation of many women’s associations and launching of movements. Many civil society organizations have advocated women rights in Afghanistan and there are many NGOs working to empower women in Afghanistan.  There have been improvements in this area, but still there is a long way ahead. Reminding our history, women had a respected status in Afghan society.  Almost half a century ago, Afghan women really enjoyed the rights they deserve.  They could compete at the universities, politics and even social movements against men and were mostly winners.  We had strong Afghan women in politics, strong teachers and doctors, women pilots, and even women used to drive public busses.  They were well treated and welcomed in the society.  It was a time that many of the current developed societies and countries were struggling to fight violence and injustice and inequality against women in their respective societies. Furthermore, a number of public schools were named after famous Afghan women such as Malalai High School and Zarghona high school.  But, unfortunately, the devastating war in Afghanistan has taken everything from Afghans and turned things upside-down. With the establishment of the democratic era in Afghanistan since late 2001, Afghan government with the support of international community has taken steps to empower women and struggle against gender-based violence. Now we have women serving as ministers, MPs, lawyers, judges, doctors, provincial council members, senators, general officers in the Afghan National Army and Police, and event as Afghan junior diplomats abroad. Recently, the Afghan government has taken measures to empower women in different areas.  The President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, has promised to pay a key attention to empower women and fight against gender-based violence. Recently a Trust Fund has been launched to eliminate violence against women.  President Ghani has also made remarkable steps to empower women by offering them ministerial, deputy ministerial and directorial positions in the government.  Now, the voice of women can be heard and the president is committed to take quick actions against those who commit violence against women. Furthermore, the Afghan Constitution and other legislations in this country fully support equality between men and women and the women’s rights.  Now, Afghan women, enjoy the support of the government and as well as the laws. Utilizing the opportunities offered by the Afghan government to women, a big number of Afghan women are now becoming police officers and NCOs to serve their country.  The number of women in other fields where we either had zero or limited number of women is also increasing. So, let’s support the Afghan government to further empower women and give them the rights they deserve.  There are challenges ahead of women in this country; we can overcome these challenges with the help of each other.  And let’s form our vision by an old saying “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”.  
Afghan Government Call for Peace
Last week, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani in his opening statement addressing members of Quadrilateral Coordination Group in Kabul called on Taliban fighters to reconcile with the Afghan government and accept the peace call of the government.  He called on all Taliban groups to accept the Afghan government call for peace and come to the negotiation table so that all the differences are resolved through political dialog. 

Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) in a joint statement said that the group discussed and made progress on a roadmap towards initiating peace talks with Taliban groups that reflects the shared commitments of the QCG member countries. 

Last week’s meeting was the second meeting of the QCG – formed to help bring an end to the unwanted war in Afghanistan after Islamabad hosted initial discussions last week. 

Afghans believe that QCG will find a solution to put an end to the war in Afghanistan and bring the Taliban to the negotiation table if all members of QCG act honestly and commit themselves to real peace talks.  QCG commitment and the Taliban willingness for political talks will help to fulfill the long wanting wish of the people of Afghanistan for a lasting and enduring peace in Afghanistan. 

It is worth mentioning that peace in Afghanistan is not only in the interest of Afghans, but as well as in the interest of all countries in the region.  The war in Afghanistan can easily affect countries in the region.  Afghans have always been saying that the current crisis in Afghanistan can extend to other countries too.  So, bringing China, United States, and Pakistan into this group aimed to find a real solution to this problem.

Afghans also urge to QCG members that Afghans by no means are ready to risk their achievements made over the past 14 years which includes the Afghan Constitution, human rights, freedom of speech and other values.  We believe that these values will not be the victims during peace talks.  We also want these talks to bee Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. 

Furthermore, Afghans support a result-oriented peace process and the willingness of Pakistan, to explore options of use of all means necessary in dealing with groups who would refuse to lay down arms and join a peaceful life.

Afghans also believe that the Taliban are also tired of this war and want to reconcile and come back to their homes and joint their families and live peacefully.  We believe that political dialogue can bring reconciliation and peace to this country.  Afghans have a long history of solving disputes through constructive dialogues and talks.  We have never preferred to fight unless we had to. 

Afghans are optimistic for this new attempt for peace and stability in Afghanistan and we trust the honesty and intention of the government in this regard.  We hope that the QCG update Afghans on any developments made in the process of peace talks, and the roadmap for peace talks is a good start.

International efforts to support Afghan Air Force
Over the past months, Afghan Air Force has been receiving warplanes and helicopters to fight terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan. 

The first batch of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft from the United States was completed last week.  Afghan officials said that the United States is committed to support Afghan Air Force in the long term. 

The A-29 is a multi-role, fixed-wing aircraft that will provide the Afghan air force with an indigenous air-to-ground capability and aerial reconnaissance capabilities to support Afghan National Security and Defense Forces in combat operations in Afghanistan.  

In addition, India has also handed over three of the four Mi-25 gunship helicopters to Afghan Air Force aiming to boost the capabilities of the Afghan Air Force (AAF). 

It is worth mentioning that Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has called on U.S. and other partners to help Afghanistan in building an efficient and effective air force as the Afghan national security and defense forces are in critical need of air support.

It is vivid that terrorism is a regional and global threat and Afghanistan is in the front line of facing threats from terrorism; so this fight requires strategic regional and international cooperation.

Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) are currently responsible for providing security and conducting unilateral operations across Afghanistan.   Two years ago, ANSDF were supported by hundreds thousands international forces in combat operation, while ANSDF is currently carrying out these operations independently.  This shows that ANSDF is improving by capacity and strengthen and can stand against any enemy that threats the national values, sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. 
The provision of these aircrafts and helicopters will not only add to the capabilities of the Afghan air power, but will also help Afghan ground forces while combating the enemy. 

According to Acting Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai, these aircraft are capable to provide close-air support to the ground forces and is able to carry over 30 different types of weapons and munitions to the mission.

Afghans appreciate the recent attempts by the Afghan Government to convince the international community to support Afghan Air Force and also admire the generous assistance of the international community to support Afghan Air Force.  In addition, Afghans urge the international community specially the United States with whom we have signed SPA and BSA, to further pay attention to boost the capability of AAF.  This is not our war.; Afghans are the victims of this unwanted and imposed war. Afghans also call on countries of the region to put their differences aside and pay attention to eradicating the rising threats from new terrorist groups in the region.  Terrorists are not only a threat to the region but as well as to the whole world
National Procurement Commission Approves Eleven Contracts
The meeting approved 11 contracts worth Afs.1.834 billion ($ 29.1 million) from Ministries of Defense, Higher Education, Finance, Public Works, Counter Narcotics, and National Directorate of Security, Breshna Electricity Company and Kabul Municipality, and deferred some others for further investigation to the next meeting.

The contracts approved includes designing, equipping and expansion of Chemtala power sub-station; construction of treatment center for drug abusers in Nangarhar province; food distribution for teaching hospitals and central dormitories; food supply to Maiwand 203 Army Corps; fuel for National Directorate of Security and Finance Ministry; passport printing; occupancy fees and repair and maintenance of Maidan-Bamyan road.

President Ghani instructed relevant ministries to exercise a careful oversight of the implementation of the projects and regularly report to the NPC on the progress.

Since its beginning, the National Procurement Commission has approved 230 contracts worth Afs.46 billion.

The meeting was attended by the Second Vice-President Mohammad Sarwar Danish, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and the Ministers for Finance, Economy and Justice.
National Procurement Commission Approves Four Contracts
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani chaired the regular meeting of National Procurement Commission in Arg, where four contracts were approved.

The Commission reviewed 13 contracts from Ministries of Energy and Water, Finance, Public Works, Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Foreign Affairs and Counter Narcotics, Kabul Municipality and Breshna Electricity Company. After a thorough review, the meeting approved four contracts, worth Afs.2,414 million (US$ 38,317,460).

The meeting also approved amendments proposed for 5 contracts, rejected one contract and deferred 3 for technical modification and postponed one for the next meeting.

Also discussed in the meeting was the pavement work for the 2nd phase of streets in Kabul’s district 8th and the construction of a road in Greshk district in Helmand province.

Since its beginning, the National Procurement Commission has held 18 meetings where 250 contracts worth Afs.43.7 billion have been approved.

The meeting was attended by the Second Vice-President Mohammad Sarwar Danish, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and the Ministers for Finance, Economy and Justice.


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