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Monday, May 11, 2020

Afghan chaos ~ wicketkeeper-batsman Shafiqullah banned for 6 years

Afghanistan, landlocked multiethnic country located in the heart of south-central Asia is strife-torn for many decades. Lying along important trade routes connecting southern and eastern Asia to Europe and the Middle East, Afghanistan has long been a prize sought by empire builders, and for millennia great armies have attempted to subdue it, leaving traces of their efforts in great monuments now fallen to ruin.  The land that is now Afghanistan has a long history of domination by foreign conquerors and strife among internally warring factions. At the gateway between Asia and Europe, this land was conquered by Darius I of Babylonia circa 500 B.C., and Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 329 B.C., among others. Mahmud of Ghazni, an 11th century conqueror who created an empire from Iran to India, is considered the greatest of Afghanistan’s conquerors. Genghis Khan took over the territory in the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the 1700s that the area was united as a single country.  During the 19th century, Britain, looking to protect its Indian empire from Russia, attempted to annex Afghanistan, resulting in a series of British-Afghan Wars.

The drowning of at least 18 young Afghans allegedly forced at gunpoint into a river by Iranian border guards has caused a diplomatic strain between Kabul and Tehran and international calls for an investigation. In a different move, the  official in charge of the Afghan government’s response to covid-19 in a rural district near the city of Herat recently received a dressing-down by phone. The caller berated him for the lack of masks at a particular clinic. Local bureaucrats needed to get their act together quickly, the caller instructed. The man delivering the rebuke was not some big cheese from the ministry of health in Kabul, however, but a member of the Taliban, the rebels who have been trying to overthrow the government since 2001, when they themselves were ousted from power by American-backed force.

Iran’s Chabahar port is playing a key role in India’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Afghanistan amid the Covid-19 crisis, people familiar with developments said on Friday. India has made a commitment to supply 75,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan, of which 5000 tonnes was shipped via Chabahar last month, while another 10,000 tonnes was despatched to the Iranian port on Thursday, the people said. “Chabahar port is very much in use and it is coming in very handy when we are dealing with humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan,” the person said, adding India is now looking at the possibility of supplying more items needed by Afghanistan, such as tea and sugar, via the Iranian port. The Iranian port, for whose development a tripartite agreement has been signed by New Delhi, Kabul and Tehran, was granted a waiver from US sanctions in view of its importance for Afghanistan.

India’s played constructive role in Afghanistan and its support for efforts for peace, reconciliation and development had figured in discussions in New Delhi on Thursday between Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, and external affairs minister S Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. In a first, while mentioning India by name, Taliban has said that it would like to have a positive relationship with the country and welcomed New Delhi's cooperation in Afghanistan.  Doha's Taliban political office spokesperson, is quoted as saying "Based on our national interest and mutual respect, we would like to have positive relations with neighbouring countries including India and welcome their contribution and cooperation in the reconstruction of future Afghanistan." The comments come even as the US is keen that India speaks to the Taliban. US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, was in New Delhi last week, the first such visit after the US Taliban deal on February 29 and had spoken about this with India.

At the time of Covid-19 with no Cricket as also other sports not happening – Afghan cricket is rocked.  After admitting to the charges of corruption issued against him by the Afghanistan Cricket Board, including one that said he was trying to fix a match in the 2019-20 Bangladesh Premier League, wicketkeeper-batsman Shafiqullah has been banned from all cricket-related activities for six years. An ACB release on Sunday mentioned that the charges against the 30-year-old also relate to his conduct during the Afghanistan Premier League in 2018.

In total, Shafiqullah had allegedly broken four articles of the ACB's anti-corruption code: trying to fix the outcome of a domestic match, seeking or offering bribes to fix the outcome of a domestic match, inducing a team-mate to fix a domestic match, and failing to report a corrupt approach.

Shafiqullah was part of the team that led Afghanistan to ODI status and a member of two World T20 campaigns. But he has not played an international game since September last year. A wicketkeeper-batsman by trade, he represented his country in 24 ODIs and 46 T20Is between 2009 and 2019. "This is a very serious offence where a senior national player is involved in the corruption of a high-profile domestic game in APL T20 2018," said the ACB's senior anti-corruption manager. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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