© Copyright, 2015 (PHNO) http://newsflash.org

EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL: MAMASAPANO, TWISTED ALTERNATIVE TRUTH
[The LA Times report vouched for the SAF commandos having killed Marwan only that the operation went awry after the police units were pounced upon by Muslim rebels that included MILF elements as well as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
When the firefight started, something not right happened likely from the command that led to the deaths of the SAF commandos to pile up.]


Noynoy’s alternative truth on the Mamasapano massacre is part of the ongoing campaign of Noynoy and his Liberal Party and Palace cohorts to clear the so-called straight path of any obstructions and pave the way for the Mar Roxas for president campaign.The Mamasapano incident is expected to be a major campaign issue next year as the January 25 tragedy showed the complete incompetence and callousness of Noynoy.Mar was supposedly taken out of the loop in Operation Exodus that resulted in the tragedy but he did nothing afterwards to at least contribute to ferreting out the truth.On hindsight, it was also impossible for Mar, who has been called as Noynoy’s alter-ego, to have missed out on something as big as the operations to capture an international terrorist.That more than 300 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and a number of American specialists were included in it proves Oplan Exodus was not a routine police operation as claimed by Noynoy.Also an article in the Los Angeles Times (LA Times) based on interviews with former military operatives in the Philippines indicated that US involvement in Oplan Exodus was from the training of the commandos assigned to it up to the monitoring of the actual mission.The twisting of facts in the controversial operations started right after it happened with Noynoy claiming initially that it was an operation that had SAF Commander Getulio Napeñas as the only one on top of it.He would later admit to the participation of his crony former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima in directing the operation despite his being under suspension by the Ombudsman.It is now proven that Noynoy was in the thick of Oplan Exodus. Not even Napeñas could have given the Americans approval and the drones and all intellgence apparatus to assist the SAF in its clandestine ops to get Marwan. The alternative truth which apparently would be lifted from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) version of the incident that it was Marwan’s men who killed him and not the commandos, would likely seek to take away credit from the slain SAF commandos who apparently have been haunting the conscience of Noynoy and at the same time extolling the MILF since the whole incident will necessarily be according to the narration in the MILF report in which the fault on the firefight has been placed on the SAF commandos.READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Strange hostility and affinity


There is more than meets the eye in the desperate effort of Noynoy and his cohorts in the Liberal Party (LP) and the Palace to foist an altered truth to the public regarding the Mamasapano massacre.The massacre claimed the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who are being packaged as sacrificial lambs to advance the Palace measure which is the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).The BBL is the product of an agreement between Noynoy and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in which the rebel group will be bestowed their own substate in violation of the Constitution.
Noynoy floated a supposed continuing investigation into the Mamasapano massacre to determine what he termed as “alternative truth” to what transpired on Jan. 25 primarily related to the events that led to the killing of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, the chief target of Oplan Exodus that was undertaken by SAF commandos.In the aftermath of the Mamasapano debacle, the attempt to insulate both Noynoy and the MILF from any blame was palpable in dumping the blame initially on the SAF commander Getulio Napeñas and later on, since it became too difficult to avoid, Noynoy crony former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima would have to assume some of the blame.Noynoy was noticeably hostile toward the SAF, likely due to its failure to deliver the goods without any complication.Noynoy, along with Mar Roxas, initially called the massacre a misencounter following the line of the MILF. He failed to attend the ceremony when the corpses of the slain commandos were brought home. He opposed the giving of any distinction to the Fallen 44 and he even sought the removal of a mural depicting the slain special policemen.In contrast, Noynoy had been the complete defender of the MILF to whom he seems to have acquired close affinity. Not one member of the MILF has been charged over the incident as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who gets her orders from Noynoy has failed to make good her vow to prosecute more than 100 rebels involved in the carnage.READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Bastardized budget system


The practice of impounding government funds in the budget which Noynoy and his Liberal Party (LP) cohorts heavily criticized the former administration for supposedly abusing the use of the annual state allocations, is back with impunity in the final two years of the administration of Noynoy.Impounding or freezing funding for an item in the budget and later reallocating to a new project or program such as the Disbursement Acceleration Program was disallowed under the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the DAP.Primarily ruled as unconstitutional was the declaration of savings prior to the end of a full year which is now made legal by including a similar provision that placed on the discretion of the Palace when funds are moved from items in the budget for this year.The modified DAP ruling of the SC, issued last February, also allowed the augmentation of funds in items already in the budget which was a tremendous relaxation of the original SC decision that barred three Palace actions creating the DAP, and by extension, the accumulation of discretionary funds.A petition filed with the high court sought to stop the Palace from spending up to P700 billion in the 2015 budget that has the character of pork barrel or discretionary funds of Noynoy which are used for political leverage.The accumulation of savings which are later transformed into lump sums for Noynoy are mostly done through the so-called “spend it or lose it” policy of LP strategist and Budget Secretary Butch Abad.Former Budget Secretary Ben Diokno said that the Abad policy is dubious on its face because if the DBM were truthful about preparing budget carefully, it does not need to impound, confiscate, and hoard the budget. Capital outlays and some maintenance appropriations have a lifetime of two years which allow savings from the heavy underspending in the past years to be used this year and next.Diokno said when the budget of an agency is impounded, a negative special release allotment order (SARO) is issued. This happens when an agency head declares that his department is not able to spend the authorized budget which Diokno said limits the agency’s ability to deliver services it committed to Congress.READ MORE...


ALSO: by Ninez Cacho-Olivares: The unraveling of political coalitions


Should the Liberal Party coalition not hold, and it will likely not hold, the LP will likely not be able to have 12 senatorial candidates in its slate. Neither, for that matter, can the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), even if they have a presidential tandem leading it. Nor will the Nacionalista Party (NP) be able to form a complete senatorial ticket. The same goes for the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). LP on its own, has very few strong senatorial bets for 2016. Right now, there are only two making it to the top six slots, going by the latest RMN radio survey. Even Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, a re-electionist, is a cellar dweller. He ranked number 16 in the survey. For a re-electionist, this is bad news. But he only has to blame himself for his poor showing, just as Senators Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes have only to blame themselves for being unpopular with the voters, with the way they handled the pork barrel Senate hearings and carried on with a trial and conviction of the three oppositions senators, plus the Senate kangaroo hearings against VP Binay. It is even worse now, since the court hearings are showing that there is no evidence of the senators having pocketed the pork funds and that Benhur Luy has been lying through his teeth, as well as his digital files having been manufactured evidence.Cayetano, as a VP bet, only got a 5.93 percent survey vote, while Trillanes got an even lower score of 4.81 percent vote. While the NPC may be the second largest political party, and strong in the number of governors and mayors, the fact is that it is not a united party, and even the leadership of the party cannot possibly control its members in the choice of president and vice president to support in the coming elections. Poe has gone down in ratings, with VP Binay climbing back to No. 1 position. VP Binay has been making the rounds of the cities, municipalities and provinces all over the country while Poe has not even started. Of course there are seven months to go, but that’s a short time for national campaigning. Besides, her disqualification case still hangs in the balance. And even if the Senate Electoral Tribunal gives her the greenlight of eligibility, the case only concerns her senatorial seat, not her presidential qualifications, which would have to be decided on by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and presumably, even the Supreme Court. READ MORE...


ALSO by AFP with Tribune wires: Desperate Afghans pin asylum hopes on Taliban threat letters


Desperate to leave their war-torn country, Afghans are pinning their hopes on Taliban threat letters - real or counterfeit. Kabul — Stamped with the Taliban’s crossed sabers emblem, the threat letter in Ahmadzia Abbasi’s hand reads like a death warrant — but like many Afghans he sees the document as a ticket to a new life and asylum in Europe.
The Taliban widely use so-called “night letters” containing lurid threats of violence and death, often delivered by shadowy agents under the cover of darkness, as an effective tool of intimidation.Many war-weary Afghans embarking on perilous voyages to Europe carry the nocturnal missives — real and counterfeit — in an effort to build a compelling case for their refugee application.“Anyone who reads this will know that my life is in grave danger,” said Abbasi, a 31-year-old social activist from eastern Logar province, holding up a night letter he found pinned to his front door in April.The Pashto-language document, bearing the signature Taliban stamp, castigates him for supporting the “infidel government” and warns that his head will be cut off.He said the threat was prompted by his push to promote girls’ education in his village, which apparently angered the infamously misogynistic militant network.“The letter is my best hope — my only hope — of gaining asylum,” he told AFP in Kabul.He has appealed for asylum to the European Union (EU) mission in Afghanistan, but the process is unlikely to be smooth as a record number of Afghans flee the turmoil and war convulsing their country.Afghan officials say the country is witnessing an “unprecedented” migration towards European nations.Some 77,731 Afghans applied for asylum in Europe in the first six months of the year, more than three times the figure in the same period last year, and higher than all previous years since 2001, according to the UN refugee agency.Afghans are the second largest group of migrants trying to make Europe their home, behind only Syrians.“People keep dying.” While many face genuine threats, fabricated night letters are common, highlighting the lengths some Afghans are willing to go in order to attain asylum.READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Twisted alternative truth

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 (TRIBUNE) Written by Tribune Editorial Tuesday, 15 September 2015 00:00 - Noynoy’s alternative truth on the Mamasapano massacre is part of the ongoing campaign of Noynoy and his Liberal Party and Palace cohorts to clear the so-called straight path of any obstructions and pave the way for the Mar Roxas for president campaign.

The Mamasapano incident is expected to be a major campaign issue next year as the January 25 tragedy showed the complete incompetence and callousness of Noynoy.

Mar was supposedly taken out of the loop in Operation Exodus that resulted in the tragedy but he did nothing afterwards to at least contribute to ferreting out the truth.

On hindsight, it was also impossible for Mar, who has been called as Noynoy’s alter-ego, to have missed out on something as big as the operations to capture an international terrorist.

That more than 300 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and a number of American specialists were included in it proves Oplan Exodus was not a routine police operation as claimed by Noynoy.

Also an article in the Los Angeles Times (LA Times) based on interviews with former military operatives in the Philippines indicated that US involvement in Oplan Exodus was from the training of the commandos assigned to it up to the monitoring of the actual mission.

The twisting of facts in the controversial operations started right after it happened with Noynoy claiming initially that it was an operation that had SAF Commander Getulio Napeñas as the only one on top of it.

He would later admit to the participation of his crony former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima in directing the operation despite his being under suspension by the Ombudsman.

It is now proven that Noynoy was in the thick of Oplan Exodus. Not even Napeñas could have given the Americans approval and the drones and all intellgence apparatus to assist the SAF in its clandestine ops to get Marwan.


APPENDED BY PHNO: After a bungled raid in January, the government of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, center, has delayed plans to give the U.S. wider access to military bases that the Obama administration sought for its strategic “pivot” to Asia. (Jay Directo / AFP/Getty Images) LA TIMES SEPTEMBER 10, 2015

The alternative truth which apparently would be lifted from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) version of the incident that it was Marwan’s men who killed him and not the commandos, would likely seek to take away credit from the slain SAF commandos who apparently have been haunting the conscience of Noynoy and at the same time extolling the MILF since the whole incident will necessarily be according to the narration in the MILF report in which the fault on the firefight has been placed on the SAF commandos.

READ MORE...

The LA Times report vouched for the SAF commandos having killed Marwan only that the operation went awry after the police units were pounced upon by Muslim rebels that included MILF elements as well as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

When the firefight started, something not right happened likely from the command that led to the deaths of the SAF commandos to pile up.

At that time, according to the recounting of the LA Times report, American forces were still guiding the commandos through aerial monitoring likely through drones in an effort to get them to safety.

The response, however, from the command post was too slow and even static as investigations conducted by the Senate and the PNP Board of Inquiry indicated.

“It was a bungled operation and it has had major fallout,” David Maxwell, a retired Army colonel who commanded the U.S. special operations force in the Philippines in 2006 and 2007, put it bluntly.

Noynoy in some accounts intervened personally in the operations, ordering reinforcements to the beleaguered commando units to “stand down” resulting in the massacre of members of the elite police unit.

The Mamasapano incident, similar to the Disbursement Acceleration Program scam and the other controversies that Noynoy and LP kingpins are caught in, needed clearing before the campaigns start.

The alternative twist of Noynoy os just one of many efforts to twist the truth to boost the poor chances of Roxas who will have the straight path mantra as a major campaign cry.


EDITORIAL: Strange hostility and affinity
Written by Tribune Editorial Wednesday, 16 September 2015 00:00

There is more than meets the eye in the desperate effort of Noynoy and his cohorts in the Liberal Party (LP) and the Palace to foist an altered truth to the public regarding the Mamasapano massacre.

The massacre claimed the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who are being packaged as sacrificial lambs to advance the Palace measure which is the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The BBL is the product of an agreement between Noynoy and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in which the rebel group will be bestowed their own substate in violation of the Constitution.

Noynoy floated a supposed continuing investigation into the Mamasapano massacre to determine what he termed as “alternative truth” to what transpired on Jan. 25 primarily related to the events that led to the killing of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, the chief target of Oplan Exodus that was undertaken by SAF commandos.

In the aftermath of the Mamasapano debacle, the attempt to insulate both Noynoy and the MILF from any blame was palpable in dumping the blame initially on the SAF commander Getulio Napeñas and later on, since it became too difficult to avoid, Noynoy crony former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima would have to assume some of the blame.

Noynoy was noticeably hostile toward the SAF, likely due to its failure to deliver the goods without any complication.

Noynoy, along with Mar Roxas, initially called the massacre a misencounter following the line of the MILF. He failed to attend the ceremony when the corpses of the slain commandos were brought home. He opposed the giving of any distinction to the Fallen 44 and he even sought the removal of a mural depicting the slain special policemen.

In contrast, Noynoy had been the complete defender of the MILF to whom he seems to have acquired close affinity. Not one member of the MILF has been charged over the incident as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who gets her orders from Noynoy has failed to make good her vow to prosecute more than 100 rebels involved in the carnage.

READ MORE...

Previously, a lot of coaxing was needed for Malacañang to deliver on the lofty and well-publicized promises that included cash and other livelihood assistance to the families of the 44 SAF commandos killed in the Mamasapano massacre.

Sanitizing and twisting the issue is perceived crucial not only for Noynoy’s approval ratings but also for public acceptance of the BBL that, for all purposes would not pass even if Noynoy twists all the necks of his House allies since support for the controversial bill is deemed a political suicide.

Investigations into the incident, including that of the PNP Board of Inquiry and the Senate committee peace and order pointed to the ultimate responsibility of Noynoy on the incident.

The removal of the “Tagaligtas (Savior) 44” mural from the walls of the Philippine National Police Academy was also a direct order from the Palace that was followed by the striking out of SAF officers who took part in Oplan Exodus from the honor list of the PNP during its anniversary when Noynoy was a guest.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. then offered a lame excuse that the evaluation for the awarding of the medal of valor, the highest award bestowed among uniformed personnel of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines was not completed on time.

The names of slain SAF commando Police Officer 2 Romeo Cempron and Mamasapano incident survivor Superintendent Raymund Train were, however, in the initial list of awardees for the 114th anniversary of the PNP.

The SAF commandos who lost their lives in the Jan. 25 mission to capture or kill Malaysian terrorist Marwan and his Filipino cohort Usman were also completely forgotten by Noynoy during his State of the Nation Address last July 28 in which no mention of the incident or the Fallen 44 was made in his speech.

Some of the widows of the Fallen 44 lamented that not even a word was dedicated to the SAF commandos in the more than two hour speech of Noynoy where he gave thanks to even his nanny and hair stylist.

The claim that Oplan Exodus was a success since it resulted in the death of Marwan only made the attitude of Noynoy toward the slain SAF members more questionable since they should be considered heroes who do not deserve the treatment that Noynoy is giving them.

The unmentioned desire of Noynoy in all of his strange hostility of his is for his own glory which is to make the MILF the good guys and the Fallen 44 as having brought their hard luck upon themselves.

Enacting the BBL and thus capping his peace deal with the MILF, he believes, may be enough to snare his coveted Nobel peace prize.


EDITORIAL: Bastardized budget system
Written by Tribune Editorial Saturday, 12 September 2015 00:00

The practice of impounding government funds in the budget which Noynoy and his Liberal Party (LP) cohorts heavily criticized the former administration for supposedly abusing the use of the annual state allocations, is back with impunity in the final two years of the administration of Noynoy.

Impounding or freezing funding for an item in the budget and later reallocating to a new project or program such as the Disbursement Acceleration Program was disallowed under the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the DAP.

Primarily ruled as unconstitutional was the declaration of savings prior to the end of a full year which is now made legal by including a similar provision that placed on the discretion of the Palace when funds are moved from items in the budget for this year.

The modified DAP ruling of the SC, issued last February, also allowed the augmentation of funds in items already in the budget which was a tremendous relaxation of the original SC decision that barred three Palace actions creating the DAP, and by extension, the accumulation of discretionary funds.

A petition filed with the high court sought to stop the Palace from spending up to P700 billion in the 2015 budget that has the character of pork barrel or discretionary funds of Noynoy which are used for political leverage.

The accumulation of savings which are later transformed into lump sums for Noynoy are mostly done through the so-called “spend it or lose it” policy of LP strategist and Budget Secretary Butch Abad.

Former Budget Secretary Ben Diokno said that the Abad policy is dubious on its face because if the DBM were truthful about preparing budget carefully, it does not need to impound, confiscate, and hoard the budget.

Capital outlays and some maintenance appropriations have a lifetime of two years which allow savings from the heavy underspending in the past years to be used this year and next.

Diokno said when the budget of an agency is impounded, a negative special release allotment order (SARO) is issued. This happens when an agency head declares that his department is not able to spend the authorized budget which Diokno said limits the agency’s ability to deliver services it committed to Congress.

READ MORE...

The suit against the revival of pork in the 2015 budget, however, indicated that section 73 of the 2015 General Appropriations Act, allows heads of agencies the unbridled discretion to realign and reprioritize funds anytime they wish.

The petition noted that the Special Purpose Funds (SPF) under the administration of the Executive branch violated the prohibition against cross-border transfers and the Fiscal Autonomy of the Judiciary, Constitutional Commissions and the Ombudsman.”

“Section 25(5), Article VI of the Constitution only allows the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions ‘to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices.’ Cross-border transfer is prohibited,” the petition said.

The petitioners said that the SC already upheld in a previous case that the Constitution “has delineated borders between their offices, such that funds appropriated for one office are prohibited from crossing over to another office even in the guise of augmentation of a deficient item or items. Thus, we call such transfers of funds cross-border transfers or cross-border augmentations.”

“This situation is prohibited by the Constitution as it violates the principle of separation of powers, it added.

“The SPFs — which serve as common pools of funds under the administration of the Executive branch from where augmentation may be drawn — also violate the fiscal autonomy of the Judiciary, Constitutional Commissions and the Ombudsman,” the petition stated.

The impounding of funds and other practices already restricted by the SC decision on the DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund, however, were institutionalized in the budget law to allow the practice of manipulating the budget.

Such abuse of the budget is thus given a semblance of legality through Noynoy and his lapdogs in Congress.

All such efforts are done to keep pork alive and kicking. And Noynoy and Abad can’t claim “good faith” as they did it again.


The unraveling of political coalitions Written by Ninez Cacho-Olivares Thursday, 17 September 2015 00:00



Should the Liberal Party coalition not hold, and it will likely not hold, the LP will likely not be able to have 12 senatorial candidates in its slate.

Neither, for that matter, can the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), even if they have a presidential tandem leading it.

Nor will the Nacionalista Party (NP) be able to form a complete senatorial ticket. The same goes for the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

LP on its own, has very few strong senatorial bets for 2016. Right now, there are only two making it to the top six slots, going by the latest RMN radio survey

 Even Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, a re-electionist, is a cellar dweller. He ranked number 16 in the survey. For a re-electionist, this is bad news. But he only has to blame himself for his poor showing, just as Senators Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes have only to blame themselves for being unpopular with the voters, with the way they handled the pork barrel Senate hearings and carried on with a trial and conviction of the three oppositions senators, plus the Senate kangaroo hearings against VP Binay.

It is even worse now, since the court hearings are showing that there is no evidence of the senators having pocketed the pork funds and that Benhur Luy has been lying through his teeth, as well as his digital files having been manufactured evidence.

Cayetano, as a VP bet, only got a 5.93 percent survey vote, while Trillanes got an even lower score of 4.81 percent vote.

While the NPC may be the second largest political party, and strong in the number of governors and mayors, the fact is that it is not a united party, and even the leadership of the party cannot possibly control its members in the choice of president and vice president to support in the coming elections.

Poe has gone down in ratings, with VP Binay climbing back to No. 1 position. VP Binay has been making the rounds of the cities, municipalities and provinces all over the country while Poe has not even started. Of course there are seven months to go, but that’s a short time for national campaigning.

Besides, her disqualification case still hangs in the balance. And even if the Senate Electoral Tribunal gives her the greenlight of eligibility, the case only concerns her senatorial seat, not her presidential qualifications, which would have to be decided on by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and presumably, even the Supreme Court.

READ MORE...

Grace’s big problem is the fact that she renounced her Filipino citizenship to become a naturalized American. How then can she claim loyalty and commitment to a country on which she had turned her back?

She could have stayed in the US, by being a green card holder. She opted to become an American. And she becomes a Filipino citizen only because of convenience, i.e. she wanted to enjoy dual citizenship and she was being offered a government job as a censors chief.

In similar fashion, the NP will likely coalesce with the LP if Alan Cayetano is chosen to become Mar Roxas’ vice presidential bet, although chances are high that it would be Leni Robredo who will make it as Roxas’ running mate.

In which case, with Robredo as Mar’s VP, the NP is not likely to coalesce with the LP. The NP may opt to coalesce with another party, say, the NPC, but only if the NP’s bets for either the Senate and the House are given a sizable number of slots.

What would be interesting to watch, however, is the VP race, where two Bicolanos are running for the same seat: Escudero and Robredo.


CAYETANO, ROBREDO

It is being claimed that the Bicolanos’ vote is solid when it comes to a Bicolano candidate. What then happens when Escudero and Robredo run for the same VP seat?

Chances are, in Bicol at least, Leni will be getting the vote. The talk around town is that Escudero is not well liked in the Bicol area and has not done anything for the Bicolanos, whether as congressman or senator.

UNA will probably go it alone in the senatorial race, even with say, six or more candidates.

Rodrigo Duterte, if he runs at all, despite his categorical announcement that he is definitely throwing in the towel in the presidential race, will even be in a worse spot, considering that he won’t likely have a vice presidential candidate and worse, no senatorial candidates.

Of course, in the end, at least in Congress, especially senators, no matter from what party they are, they will gravitate toward Malacañang and become instant allies.

That’s the same sorry political story of the Philippines. No one — save for a few — wants to be in the opposition, which is why the country hardly ever has a strong opposition to effectively fiscalize the government, especially the abuses committed by the Malacañang tenant.

Which is why we can never have an independent Congress and independent constitutional offices and the reason we continue to have presidents whose abuses are never checked.


Desperate Afghans pin asylum hopes on Taliban threat letters
Written by AFP and Tribune Wires Saturday, 19 September 2015 00:00


Desperate to leave their war-torn country, Afghans are pinning their hopes on Taliban threat letters - real or counterfeit.

Kabul — Stamped with the Taliban’s crossed sabers emblem, the threat letter in Ahmadzia Abbasi’s hand reads like a death warrant — but like many Afghans he sees the document as a ticket to a new life and asylum in Europe.

The Taliban widely use so-called “night letters” containing lurid threats of violence and death, often delivered by shadowy agents under the cover of darkness, as an effective tool of intimidation.

Many war-weary Afghans embarking on perilous voyages to Europe carry the nocturnal missives — real and counterfeit — in an effort to build a compelling case for their refugee application.

“Anyone who reads this will know that my life is in grave danger,” said Abbasi, a 31-year-old social activist from eastern Logar province, holding up a night letter he found pinned to his front door in April.

The Pashto-language document, bearing the signature Taliban stamp, castigates him for supporting the “infidel government” and warns that his head will be cut off.

He said the threat was prompted by his push to promote girls’ education in his village, which apparently angered the infamously misogynistic militant network.
“The letter is my best hope — my only hope — of gaining asylum,” he told AFP in Kabul.

He has appealed for asylum to the European Union (EU) mission in Afghanistan, but the process is unlikely to be smooth as a record number of Afghans flee the turmoil and war convulsing their country.

Afghan officials say the country is witnessing an “unprecedented” migration towards European nations.

Some 77,731 Afghans applied for asylum in Europe in the first six months of the year, more than three times the figure in the same period last year, and higher than all previous years since 2001, according to the UN refugee agency.

Afghans are the second largest group of migrants trying to make Europe their home, behind only Syrians.

“People keep dying.” While many face genuine threats, fabricated night letters are common, highlighting the lengths some Afghans are willing to go in order to attain asylum.

READ MORE...

Heshmat, 24, bought his for $80 from a group of counterfeiters recommended by a friend who recently made it to Germany with a similar letter.

He said he was unsure whether the network was linked directly to the Taliban but the forged night letter looks “very real.”

“The human smuggler who will take me to Sweden says: ‘Europe is now open to migrants — and a Taliban death threat can go a long way to demonstrate the need for asylum,’” Heshmat told AFP, requesting that his last name be withheld.

Smuggling networks are flourishing in Afghanistan, making money from tens of thousands of desperate migrants undertaking dangerous journeys on well-trodden Mediterranean trails via Iran, Turkey and Greece.

Statistics suggesting the scale of fraudulent cases are hard to come by but Heather Barr, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, cautions against generalizing the trend.

“Even if some letters are fake, that does not mean that all are — and Human Rights Watch has documented what we are fully satisfied are genuine threat letters in some cases,” Barr told AFP.

“It’s also worth remembering that the body count in Afghanistan is high and growing. I would ask anyone who argues that the threats are not real to explain why so many people who say they are under threat keep dying.”

Growing desperation. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that Afghans — increasingly weary of surging Taliban violence and rising joblessness — are going to lengths to bolster their case for asylum.

A Kabul printing press said it has fielded more and more enquiries about “Taliban rubber stamps,” possibly for fake night letters.

A hair salon in Kabul revealed recent requests from light-haired Afghans for darker, dyed hair to make them “appear Syrian” — the belief being that Syrians are being given priority for asylum.

Joining the snaking queues outside Kabul’s passport office — another testament to the accelerating exodus — some Afghans are seen waving night letters in desperate pleas to officials to expedite the process.

“We can’t give passports to thousands of people in one day — nobody in the world can! Leave, just leave!” an official bluntly told the crowd one morning recently.

Abbasi says the prevalence of “fake night letters” was affecting his EU application.
“It raises questions whether my threat is real,” he said, adding that his cousin, a government official, was recently shot dead after receiving a similar threat.

As the sun went down over Kabul, he scrambled to return to his village in Logar before nightfall — when security forces retreat to their barracks and the Taliban prowl the streets.

No one can dispute that threat.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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