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Afghanistan’s Newly Appointed Defense Minister Under Fire

The allegations against Khalid initially stemmed from his stint as the governor of Kandahar a decade ago

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Afghanistan, defense, peace
Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. VOA

A global watchdog demanded Saturday international donors impose sanctions against Afghanistan’s new defense minister, Asadullah Khalid, saying there is “credible evidence” linking him to serious rights abuses.

Khalid’s appointment in December was part of a shake-up President Ashraf Ghani ordered amid sustained countrywide battlefield setbacks inflicted on embattled Afghan government forces by Taliban insurgents.

The defense minister, who previously had governed volatile Kandahar and Ghazni provinces and served as the Afghan spy chief, is also accused of ordering the killing of five United Nations workers in a roadside bombing in April 2007 in Kandahar,

Afghanistan,  defense
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul. VOA

“Credible evidence of serious human rights abuses and war crimes linked to Khalid have followed him throughout his government career,” Human Rights Watch noted. There is also strong evidence directly implicating him in acts of sexual violence against women and girls when he was governor of Ghazni and Kandahar, it added.

The HRW report denounced Khalid’s appointment as an “opportunistic and callous move” by President Ghani to score to “short-term gains” in the upcoming Afghan presidential election.

The move should have rung alarm bells not only in Kabul, but in the capitals of Afghanistan’s major donors, lamented HRW.

Afghanistan
Ghazni Afghanistan. VOA

“That it didn’t says a lot about how little human rights matter to an increasingly shaky government, and to donors looking for an exit from the long Afghan war,” the group noted.

The Afghan government has not immediately commented on the scathing report.

In a bid to preempt the criticism, officials invited among others the head of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission to Khalid’s inauguration as the country’s new defense minister two weeks ago.

“My expectation from my soldiers is that while they would be rough and rude against enemy, they would do their best to reduce civilian casualties and demonstrate good behavior with war prisoners under their legal and religious obligation,” Khalid told the ceremony.

Afghanistan, defense
Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

President Ghani’s government has proved unwilling to criminally investigate Khalid but the United States and Canada have the authority under their respective laws to impose financial and travel sanctions on him, asserted the HRW report.

“The European Union and other donors should impose similar sanctions to send a clear message that returning a known human rights abuser to a position of authority is simply unacceptable.”

The allegations against Khalid initially stemmed from his stint as the governor of Kandahar a decade ago – a time when thousands of Canadian troops were based in the province as part of the U.S.-led military coalition.

Also Read: US Military to Withdraw 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan

The HRW noted that Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin testified to a Canadian parliamentary commission in 2009 that Khalid perpetrated enforced disappearances and held people in private prisons. The testimony included evidence of Khalid’s personal involvement in the torture of detainees. (VOA)

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Most Twitter Users in India Unaware of How to Report Abuse

"We have incorporated those insights during Mexico, Brazil and US mid-term elections. The same insights we will apply for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in India," the Twitter executive said

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Twitter, tweets, India
The Twitter logo appears on a phone post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.. VOA

Not many Twitter users in India are aware of how to report abuse or harassment they face on the open communication platform, opting for the wrong way of posting an abusive photo or tweet and then requesting us to take action, says Colin Crowell, Global Vice President of Public Policy of Twitter.

There have been several incidents in the recent past where Twitter users in India, including journalists, posted abusive posts on their accounts, asking Twitter to take immediate action.

“One of the things we note in India is under-reporting of such issues. Users might take a screenshot of abuse or harassment they have been subjected to on Twitter, and say see, here is what has occurred to me. But they do not report that to us,” Crowell told IANS.

“Our team can only take action if the issue is reported to us. Twitter serves over 500 million tweets a day and we do not read all of those. So reporting abuse to us is incredibly important,” Crowell added.

Users can report abusive behaviour directly from a Tweet, profile or Direct Message. Multiple Tweets can be included in the same report to help Twitter gain better context while investigating the issues to get those resolved faster.

“We have given additional tools to users to help them navigate through the service and keep themselves secure.

Twitter, India, Smartphone
Twitter on a smartphone device. Pixabay

“There are additional ways to navigate to see tools and settings around notifications before you can mute a keyword or a conversation. You can report fake accounts or impersonation to us,” Crowell informed.

Not many of these tools are known to Twitter users in India. “We would love to continue to educate them,” he added.

On a question whether the 2016 US Presidential election has taught Twitter how to deal better with political interference on its platform, Crowell said the experience made them aware of the tactics nation-states may be using to manipulate the platform for the upcoming India elections.

Also Read- Here’s How Exposure to Instagram Can Ruin Children’s Eating Habit

“We learned a lot as an industry and received a through perspective on what happened during the 2016 US elections when it come to foreign interference.

“We have incorporated those insights during Mexico, Brazil and US mid-term elections. The same insights we will apply for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in India,” the Twitter executive said.

Millions of new voters will exercise their franchise for the first time so “we are trying to convey relevant voting information to them,” noted Crowell who appearing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology on February 25 to help address issues such as political bias and manipulation on its platform. (IANS)