Taliban claims complete control of Panjshir, the last bastion of rebels in Afghanistan

News Network
September 6, 2021

Kabul, Sept 6: The Taliban has taken complete control of Panjshir province, the last area in Afghanistan held by rebel forces, says the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid.

Pictures on social media on Monday showed Taliban members standing in front of the gate of the Panjshir provincial governor’s compound.

There was no immediate word from Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the opposition group resisting Taliban forces.

Earlier on Monday, the last anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan acknowledged suffering considerable battlefield losses and called for a ceasefire, as a top United States diplomat flew to Qatar to try and handle the chaotic aftermath of the US withdrawal.

The National Resistance Front (NRF) proposed in a statement “that the Taliban stop its military operations in Panjshir … and withdraw its forces”.

“In return, we will direct our forces to refrain from military action,” said the statement, according to a report by the AFP news agency.

The NRF includes local fighters loyal to Massoud, the son of the famous anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, as well as remnants of the Afghan military that retreated to the Panjshir Valley.

The group said separately in a tweet on Sunday that spokesman Fahim Dashty, a well-known Afghan journalist, and General Abdul Wudod Zara had been killed in the latest fighting.

The NRF has promised to fight the Taliban but also said it was willing to negotiate with the group. But initial contact did not lead to a breakthrough.

The Panjshir Valley is famed for being the site of resistance to Soviet forces in the 1980s and the Taliban in the late 1990s, but observers have said the NRF is struggling.

Bill Roggio, the managing editor of the US-based Long War Journal, on Sunday said while there was still a “fog of war”, with unconfirmed reports the Taliban had captured multiple districts, “it looks bad”.

Former Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is holed out in Panjshir alongside Ahmad Massoud, has warned of a humanitarian crisis, with thousands “displaced by the Taliban onslaught”.

The Taliban is yet to finalise their new government after rolling into Kabul three weeks ago.

Afghanistan’s new rulers have pledged to be more “inclusive” than during their first stint in power, which also came after years of conflict, first the Soviet invasion of 1979, and then a bloody civil war.

They have promised a government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic makeup.

Women’s freedoms in Afghanistan were sharply curtailed under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule.

This time, women will be allowed to attend university as long as classes are segregated by sex or at least divided by a curtain, the Taliban’s education authority said in a lengthy document issued on Sunday.

But female students must also wear an long robe and face veil, as opposed to the even more conservative burqa mandatory under the previous Taliban rule.

As the Taliban comes to grips with their transition from armed uprising to government, it is facing a host of challenges, including humanitarian needs for which international assistance is critical.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has arrived in Kabul for several days of meetings with the Taliban leadership, which has promised to help.

“The authorities pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers – men and women – will be guaranteed freedom of movement,” a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The Taliban spokesman tweeted that the group’s delegation assured the UN of cooperation.

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News Network
September 7,2021

After two cases of the deadly Nipah virus emerged in the neighbouring state of Kerala recently, out of which, one 12-year-old boy died, the Karnataka government on Tuesday directed districts bordering that state to strengthen the surveillance and preparedness. 

It said that all those coming from Kerala should be monitored for symptoms like fever, altered mental status, severe weakness, headache, respiratory distress, cough, vomiting, muscle pain, convulsion, diarrhea. 

Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Tuesday said that he had instructed the experts to study the Nipah virus and give suggestions to tackle the disease.

"I have instructed the experts to study in details about the Nipah virus. I have also told them to give suggestions regarding how it will spread, how to tackle it," Bommai said.

A 12-year-old boy died of the Nipah virus infection at Kozhikode in Kerala on September 5. The test results of eight people, including the child's parents and health care workers, who came in close contact with him, returned negative. The Kerala government had put the health departments in four districts -- Kozhikode, neighbouring Kannur, Malappuram and Wayanad -- on high alert.

 "In view of confirmed cases of Nipah virus (NiV) infection reported recently in the neighboring state of Kerala, it is imperative to strengthen the surveillance and preparedness in the larger interest of Public Health in Karnataka also, with special focus in the districts bordering Kerala -- Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Mysuru, Kodagu and Chamarajanagara," the government advisory said. 

Issued by the Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Jawaid Akhtar, it gave certain instructions to be implemented by district administrations to ensure the well being of the community, that includes monitoring those coming from Kerala for symptoms. Also, necessary public awareness should be spread among the public on Nipa, it said, adding that a systematic surveillance system is a necessary method to identify clusters of encephalitis cases, resulting in early detection of Nipah outbreaks. 

The advisory said suitable samples have to be collected with all necessary precautions from suspected, probable and contacts and sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for laboratory confirmation. However, Kerala's health minister Veena George informed news agency ANI that all 24 samples of eight persons sent to the NIV Pune have tested negative for Nipah virus

"All 24 samples of eight persons sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune were found negative (for Nipah virus). We are testing more samples. We have started field surveillance and will begin house-to-house surveillance in containment zones today," she told ANI.

As there is no known treatment or vaccine available, Ribavirin, an antiviral, may have a role in reducing mortality among patients with encephalitis caused by Nipah virus disease, it further said, adding that intensive supportive care with treatment of symptoms is the main approach for managing the infection in people. 

The advisory also instructed district authorities to send the daily reports, even if Nil, in a prescribed format, to the Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare Services, Arogya Soudha, Bengaluru. District Authorities should take all the necessary measures as instructed and as per the local situation, it added. Stating that Human Nipah Virus (NiV) infection is an emerging zoonotic disease, the health department said that in India, two outbreaks in humans were reported from West Bengal and neighboring Bangladesh in 2001 and 2007. 

Further, confirmed cases and deaths were also reported from Kerala during the outbreak in 2018. Large fruit bats of the Pteropus genus are the natural reservoir of Nipah virus, whose cases tend to occur in a cluster or as an outbreak. In general, the case-fatality rate is estimated at 40-75 per cent. However, this rate can vary by outbreak and can be up to 100 per cent, it added.

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News Network
September 9,2021

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Hubballi, Sept 9: Asaduddin Owaisi led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) has managed to snatch Congress votes in the recent Hubballi-Dharwad municipal corporation. The MIM has three seats in the Hubballi-Dharwad East Assembly constituency, known as Congress bastion. 

Being represented by Prasad Abbayya since 2013, Hubballi-Dharwad East constituency is often considered as a Congress stronghold. The Congress was expecting a resounding victory, if not a clean sweep, in the recently concluded Palike elections. But, MIM, which fielded its candidates mainly in wards with sizable Muslim presence, ate into Congress votes.

The last-minute campaigning by Owaisi swung the tide in MIM’s favour in three wards, where it managed to stave off the Congress.

The MIM had fielded its candidates in 12 wards in its electoral debut in the Hubballi-Dharwad Palike elections. Nazeer Ahmed Honyal has won from Ward No 71, with a margin of 1,694 votes against the Congress candidate Mohammad Halwoor, who is the son of Congress city district unit president. Waheeda Khannum Kittur (Ward No 76), and Hussainbi Nalvatwad (Ward No 77) also emerged victorious defeating Congress candidates.

In Ward Nos 61, 79 and 81, AIMIM candidates finished second. Also, AIMIM candidates secured more than 1,000 votes in two wards where independents won, resulting in the defeat of Congress.

In Ward No 69, an independent candidate (BJP rebel) has won, while the number of votes secured by Congress and AIMIM candidates together was more than the votes bagged by the winner. After the results, family members of the AIMIM candidate alleged that relatives of the Congress candidate attacked them, blaming them for the Congress’ defeat.

Defeating three Congress candidates, finishing second in three wards, and eating into Congress votes to facilitate the victory of independents in two wards, the MIM certainly created hurdles for the Congress in its quest to wrest power from the saffron party in Hubballi-Dharwad Palike. 

Though Congress leaders allege that the AIMIM is the B team of the BJP, they admit that it has prevented the Congress candidates from winning in several wards.

Belagavi and Kalaburagi

In Belagavi City Corporation (BCC), MIM fielded seven candidates and managed to open its account in Ward 18, where Shahidkhan Pathan defeated Congress’ Abdulkhader Gheewale by a margin of 52 votes. Pathan polled 949 votes against Gheewale’s 897 votes. 

The remaining MIM candidates, however, failed to make any impact on the outcome.

Interestingly, the MIM fared poorly in the Kalaburagi Mahanagara Palike elections, where it was expected to make inroads. The party drew blank but managed a second-place finish in six wards, where Congress candidates crossed the line. 

The Congress, despite MIM's presence, has managed to secure 26 seats in 55-member strong Kalaburagi Palike.

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News Network
September 15,2021

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Bengaluru, Sept 15: Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday said the state government is ready to have a debate on NEP 2020 with an open mind and nobody should get anxious about it.

"The government is ready to deliberate on the New Education Policy (NEP) with an open mind. We will make students understand that NEP is a revolutionary step and good for the future of the youth. Therefore, nobody should be anxious about NEP," he told reporters after paying tributes to Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya's statue on the occasion of Engineers's Day celebrations.

He was replying to a query on police lathicharge on students protesting against NEP on Tuesday. Campus Front of India (CFI) had spearheaded the protest.

The police lathicharge the students after they started to march onto the middle of the road that resulted in heavy traffic jam at ever-busy road leading to Majestic.

The students were carrying placards conveying the message that the NEP breaks the unity in diversity and encourages commercialisation of education.

Taking to Twitter today, former chief minister Siddaramaiah condemned the lathicharge on students and demanded an apology from Bommai.

"I condemn the lathicharge on students in Bengaluru for protesting against the implementation of New National Education Policy. Basavaraj Bommai should immediately withdraw NEP and apologise to the students," he tweeted.

The NEP was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi government last August.

According to the PM, the NEP promises to provide students various avenues to upskill and train themselves for jobs and vocations in India.

It also promises to teach students coding in schools from Class 6 onwards to equip them with the skills required to succeed in the 21st century.

The new policy also gives students the flexibility to choose subjects from both Science and Humanities, which will bring the Indian education system on par with the rest of the world.

It also ensures that students grasp at least one vocational skill by the end of their education so that they are job ready in the market.

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