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By agreeing to release prisoners, Ghani puts the ball in Taliban’s court

Loya Jirga’s approval to release Taliban prisoners has paved the way for intra-Afghan talks and possibly an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Aveek Sen and Omid Khogyani

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Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.

A peace gathering Loya Jirga was conveyed in Afghanistan over the last three days. This is a gathering of all sections of the Afghan society including politicians, tribal elders, teachers and civil society activists. It is conveyed since ancient times to decide issues of national importance and to arrive at a national consensus. The name consultative itself describes its scope and its decisions are not a binding upon the President. The main agenda of the Loya Jirga was to decide upon the fate of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners out of Taliban’s list of 5,000.

President Ashraf Ghani has already released 4,600 Taliban prisoners (and an additional 500 during Eid) and convened the Loya Jirga for the remaining 400 prisoners, saying that the release of these 400 Taliban prisoners was beyond his authority and that he should allow the nation to decide. The Loya Jirga’s decision will also bring changes in the team which is going to Qatar to negotiate with Taliban.

 All the 50 committees suggested to the president that the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners should be released but with conditions like guarantees from the international community that they shouldn’t return to the battlefield. Though the advice of the Loya Jirga isn’t a binding on the president, Ghani has agreed to go by their advice and release the 400 prisoners, some of whom are responsible for complex bombings. The negotiation team will soon leave for Qatar and talks will start in 3-4 days. It was also decided that 1,500 former police and army personnel, imprisoned for various crimes, will be pardoned and will be released on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the country’s independence.

However, some participants also disagreed on releasing the Taliban prisoners. MP Bilquis Roshan was pushed out of the Loya Jirga for holding a banner against the release and for raising slogans. This treatment meted out to Roshan was heavily criticised by the gathering and former President Hamid Karzai. A representative from Nangarhar questioned the motive behind calling for the Loya Jirga itself and asked why a Loya Jirga wasn’t convened when Pakistan was fencing along the Durand Line, which Afghanistan doesn’t recognise as a border.

Former President Karzai was also present on the concluding day and thanked President Ghani for convening the Loya Jirga. “I also thank all the participants of the Jirga for deciding that these 400 Taliban prisoners should be released and President Ashraf Ghani will implement them. God willing, in two or three days the team will be prepared under the leadership of Masoom Stanekzai, a very knowledgeable and patriotic person. The team will travel to Qatar and start negotiations. There is life in peace, the rights of children and women will be further strengthened. I call on the Taliban to stop fighting against the nation and government and to start negotiations, Loya Jirga solved all the political obstacles,” he said.

Assessing President Ashraf Ghani’s actions and interest in the peace process, it seems like Ghani fears an interim-government and the Taliban’s role in the interim government. Sometimes back, he had publicly drawn parallels between the talks now and those between the Mujahideen and Dr Najibullah’s government. As such, it seems that Ghani is not very comfortable with the situation. Last year, NSA Mohib had a public outburst in front of the press in the US where he had questioned Khalilzad’s intentions. It is believed that he did it with Ghani’s full backing and was a way to reach American ears at a time when the Trump administration seemed certain to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The release of 5,000 prisoners in their list was set as a condition by the Taliban in their talks with the US to start the intra-Afghan talks. With this, Ghani has left the ball in Taliban’s court. The Taliban hasn’t committed to a permanent ceasefire even after the release of all the 5,000 prisoners. The Loya Jirga has demanded the Taliban to put in place a ceasefire during the duration of the intra-Afghan talks. The Loya Jirga in this way serves its intended purpose of putting pressure on the Taliban to at the least agree to a ceasefire.

The Jirga was attended by about 3,400 people and 330 million Afghanis were allocated for it. 23 categories of people from all parts of the society — women, businessmen, youth, etc, comprised the 50 committees of the Jirga. Dr. Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, was elected the head of the consultative Loya Jirga. Prof. Marhoon of Literature and Linguistics Department at Kabul University who is also a writer of more than 100 books was the head of the 23rd committee. He said that it was a successful meeting of 3,400 people from 34 districts.

Aveek Sen works on cybersecurity and the geopolitics of India’s neighbourhood. Omid Khogyani, a PhD researcher, writes on international politics and security.

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Typhoon Talas smashes Japan, leaving thousands without water, electricity, two killed

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Thousands of people in central Japan were without running water and electricity on Sunday after Typhoon Talas dumped record rainfall on the area, causing floods and landslides and leaving at least two people dead.

According to the AFP’s published report, the body of a man in Kakegawa city, Shizuoka region, was pulled from what remained of his house on Saturday after a landslide destroyed it.

“Another male (in neighbouring Fukuroi city) was driving to his home (Saturday) when the water level rose and his vehicle apparently stopped. While the individual tried to walk home, he was believed to have died,” a regional disaster management official said.

He stated that another man was still unaccounted for in Kawanehoncho town, Shizuoka, after his car slid into a gap that appeared in the road. He also mentioned that three other people received minor wounds.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Typhoon Talas battered central Japan on Friday and Saturday as it passed by close off the Pacific coast, pouring more than 40 centimetres (16 inches) of rain in Shizuoka villages in a single day.

Before heading back out to the Pacific on Saturday morning, it was downgraded to a depression.

Up to 120,000 homes may have lost power on Saturday as a result of the storm’s heavy rains causing landslides, including in the isolated mountains of Shizuoka. This is because several electricity pylons fell and broke as a result.

According to the local firm Chubu Electric Power, 2,910 homes in Shizuoka and the neighbouring Gifu region were still without electricity as of Sunday afternoon.

“As for those areas where restoration crews are not able to reach due to blocked roads after landslides, we will make progress while analysing the conditions of the landslides,” the utility said.

Debris choked a water inlet in Shizuoka, leaving almost 55,000 homes without running water.

“Currently, we are working to remove debris from a water inlet. But for now we are unable to give any estimate as to when it can be restored,” the regional government said in a statement Sunday morning.

Typhoons regularly cause significant damage to Japan in the summer and fall.

Typhoon Nanmadol struck southwestern Japan this weekend, leaving 147 people injured and four dead.

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Top opposition leaders gather at INLD rally to challenge ‘Delhi Sultanate’

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Sharad Pawar, the head of the NCP, Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, Sitaram Yechury, and Sukhbir Singh Badal, the leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, were among the prominent opposition figures that attended the INLD’s large gathering on Sunday in Fatehabad, Haryana.

JDU leader KC Tyagi addressed the crowd and claimed that the Bihar CM has come from Patna to challenge the Delhi Sultanate at a time when eight former Congress CMs had switched to the BJP. He claimed that Kumar has no fear of the ED, the income tax, or any other organisations.

To commemorate the birth anniversary of Devi Lal, the founder of the INLD and a former deputy prime minister, a rally is being conducted.

Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy chief minister of Bihar and the head of the RJD, as well as Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena, also showed up at the gathering to demonstrate the unity of the opposition.

The coming together of so many regional satraps is seen as part of efforts to forge opposition unity. Kumar and RJD president Lalu Prasad are likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the rally to take the process forward.

Veteran socialist leader Tyagi had already declared that the gathering would be historic because it would unite like-minded forces against the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

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‘Resort bulldozed to erase evidence?’: U’khand girl’s family

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The family of Ankita Bhandari, a 19-year-old Uttarakhand receptionist, refused to cremate her body on Sunday, questioning the postmortem report and the government’s overnight action of bulldozing portions of the resort owned by the prime suspect, Pulkit Arya, the son of now-expelled BJP leader Vinod Arya. They claimed that this may have destroyed the evidence at the crime scene.

Ankita Bhandari allegedly rejected attempts by Pulkit Arya and two others to force her into prostitution, and as a result, she was killed. The woman’s body,  who was reported missing on September 18, was found in Rishikesh’s Chilla canal on Saturday.

Her brother Ajay Singh Bhandari questioned the resort’s bulldozer activity, speculating that it might be an attempt to destroy evidence.

In the late evening on Friday in Pauri Garhwal, the district administration used a bulldozer to demolish the suspected unlawful construction of the Vanantara resort in Ganga Bhogpur Talla. The building was later set on fire and had its glass windows broken by a group of angry local residents on Saturday.

“I am not satisfied with the provisional postmortem report. Her last rites will not be performed until we get the final detailed report,” said Ankita’s father Virendra Singh Bhandari.

The woman’s funeral was slated to take place on Sunday morning. At the Srinagar Medical College, her body is on display. The family has also urged that the accused be given a speedy trial and executed.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, she had suffered blunt force injuries and drowned to death. Ante-mortem injuries were found on the body, according to the autopsy, which was performed by a team of four doctors from the department of forensic medicine and toxicology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Rishikesh.

“We are making efforts to persuade the family. They have some concerns about the post-mortem report. We are taking every step possible to support the family. However, some things like post-mortem are beyond our control,” said Pauri additional superintendent of police (ASP), Shekhar Chandra Suyal.

According to officials, the final post-mortem report is expected to be released on Monday.

The government’s bulldozer action to destroy the resort has also drawn criticism from the state unit of the Congress party.

Is the government destroying the evidence by ordering the bulldozer action at the resort? Police failed to secure the custody of the accused. The Dhami government’s intention is not pure,” said party’s state chief, Karan Mahara

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Auto & Tech

Instagram to develop safety tool to protect users from filthy DMs

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Instagram is developing a new security feature that will shield users against sexually inappropriate photographs in their inboxes. According to The Verge, the “Nudity Protection” tool will work to weed out instances of online harassment known as “cyberflashing.”

Recent days have seen a significant rise in cyber-flashing incidents, which entail sending unwanted sexual messages to strangers, frequently women. By empowering users to automatically reject direct message requests containing objectionable content, this new functionality aims to combat this threat.

The report says Meta is going to use machine learning to support people to shield themselves from nude photos and other undesirable messages.

Alessandro Pauzzi, a Meta developer, also shared a sneak peek of the new feature on Twitter.

In a tweet, he shared the screenshot of the possible feature and wrote, “Instagram is working on nudity protection for chats. This technology covers photos that may contain nudity in chats. Instagram CAN’T access photos.”

Confirming this, a Meta spokesperson told The Verge they are working closely with experts to assure these new features maintain people’s privacy while also providing them to control over the communication they receive. The technology won’t let Meta view the actual messages or share them with third parties, the spokesperson mentioned.

When the feature is released, Meta said, users will have the option to enable or disable it at their choice. The feature is currently in the development phase.

A control system for parents of minors using the social networking site owned by Meta in India was recently developed. This function is now considered to be the next development in ensuring users’ privacy and security.

In addition to the current Hidden Words function, which was first launched in 2021, this feature will be available. Users can automatically filter problematic words, phrases, and emoticons into a protected folder using the Hidden Words function. Even DM inquiries that are presumably spammed are filtered out by this tool.

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Prime Minister Modi to inaugurate 5G services on October 1

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5G

The 5G services will be launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 1 at the India Mobile Congress.

In October, the Prime Minister will open a four-day conference where top telecom providers including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea will outline their 5G plans for the nation.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, “the 5G services will launch in India at the India Mobile Congress on October 1.”

The department of telecommunications (DoT) and the cellular operators association of India jointly organise the India Mobile Congress (IMC), one of the major telecom, media, and technology events in Asia (COAI).

This news comes about a month after Reliance Industries Ltd. announced it would invest 2 lakh crore to build out its 5G services in important cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata by Diwali and throughout India by December next year.

The Reliance Jio intends to launch Jio 5G by this Diwali 2022 in a number of significant locations, including the megacities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai.

Within the next two months, by Diwali, we will launch Jio 5G across multiple key cities, including the metropolises of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. By December 2023, which is less than 18 months from today, we will deliver Jio 5G to every town, every taluka, and every tehsil of our country,” Ambani told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting on August 29.

By March 2024, Bharti Airtel, a competitor of Reliance, intends to roll out its 5G services in 5,000 cities and towns.

“By December, we should have coverage in key metros. After that, we will expand rapidly to cover the entire country,” Gopal Vittal, the chief executive officer of the second largest telecom operator, said earlier this month.

Even though Vodafone Idea purchased spectrum in 17 circles across the nation during the auction month, it has not yet made any announcements regarding its plans for 5G services.

The government’s airwave auction saw Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd emerge as the biggest buyer, spending 88,078 crore, more than twice as much as Bharti Airtel Ltd, which came in second.

By selling 51,236MHz of spectrum at the week-long auction, Ambani’s acquisitions assisted the government in earning a record-breaking 1.5 lakh crore. Wireless operators purchased 71% of the available airwaves in the 72,098MHz band, including 5G spectrum, with the sale of spectrum in the 3.3GHz band generating the highest revenue of 80,590 crore. A total of 39,270 crore, 14,709 crore, and 10,376 crore were generated from the sale of airwaves in the 700MHz, 26GHz, and 1,800MHz bands, respectively.

“We understand that the spectrum purchased is good enough for covering the entire country. So, there’s good reason to believe that in the coming two to three years, we’ll have very good coverage of 5G in the entire country,” telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had said after the auction.

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SIT chief on Uttarakhand girl murder: Every resort staff called for investigation

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The chief of the special investigation team (SIT) has stated that they have called up every employee of the resort where the 19-year-old was employed as a receptionist to the police station as part of the investigation into the murder of the young woman in Uttarakhand, which has sparked intense public outrage.

DIG PR Devi said that they are taking everyone’s statements and running a full background analysis on the resort.

The body of the minor, who was allegedly killed by Pulkit Arya, the son of expelled BJP leader Vinod Arya, and two employees of a resort he owned in Rishikesh, was found in the Chilla Canal on Saturday.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, the victim died from drowning and had suffered blunt force trauma. Antemortem injuries found on the body were also included in the report. The girl was being pressured to enter prostitution, according to the police. WhatsApp conversations that support the claim are in the possession of the police.

According to reports, the woman told some of her friends and coworkers about those chats, which incensed the accused. According to the authorities, during the confrontation that took place on Monday night between the three accused and the woman regarding the matter, the accused hurled the latter into the Chilla Canal. In an apparent attempt to deceive the authorities, Pulkit Arya filed a missing person’s report after that. The three suspects have been arrested by police amid considerable outrage over the suspected murder.

Meanwhile, the BJP removed Vinod Arya and the accused’s brother, Ankit Arya, from the party on Saturday with immediate effect.

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