Afghanistan terminates contracts of two major mining companies

Ashraf Ghani has ordered the termination of the contracts of two mining companies tasked with the extraction of gold and copper deposits in the north of the country. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Afghanistan terminates contracts of two major mining companies

  • Officials from the two mining firms could not be reached for comment when contacted by Arab News

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has ordered the termination of the contracts of two mining companies tasked with the extraction of gold and copper deposits in the north of the country, an official confirmed to Arab News on Monday.

“They failed to fulfil their financial commitments and other terms of the contracts and we needed real investment, that is why the contracts have been terminated,” Abdul Qadir Mutfi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum said, adding that the government would have generated millions of dollars from the extraction of the two deposits annually if the same had not been the case.

The decision on the cancelation of the contracts — for the Balkh Aab copper deposit in Sar-e-Pul province and for the gold deposit of Badakhshan — was taken during a High Economic Council meeting last week.

On the basis of the contracts signed in October last year, the Afghan Gold and Mineral Company (AISA) was tasked with extracting copper in a 250 sq km area of Sar-e-Pul while the Turkish Afghan Mining Company (TAMC) was assigned the gold in Badakhshan, covering a region of 250 sq km, a government spokesman said.

Remote and rugged Badakhshan has one of the richest gold reserves in Afghanistan.

Both provinces have become restive in recent years due to Taliban advances and have been subject to illegal mining by both regional commanders as well as armed men linked to the Taliban.

The Afghan Cabinet will decide when the mines will next go for bidding, Mufti said. Officials from the two mining firms could not be reached for comment when contacted by Arab News.

However, a local online agency, Khama Press, on Sunday said that it had obtained a letter from them, saying that they had fulfilled the four key obligations of the contracts.

Mutfi confirmed that Sayed Mansoor Naderi, a former minister, owned a share in both mines, but rejected allegations that the termination of the contracts was based on Naderi’s decision to drop his support for Ghani during the September presidential elections and back his arch rival instead. 

The offer of the contracts drew criticism from some lawmakers and experts last year. Bari Salaam, a former senior official with a foreign-funded think tank, Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, said that the cancelation of the contracts may be due to political reasons linked to Naderi’s decision not to support Ghani in the polls.

“Unfortunately, the signing of the contract, apart from economic aspects, had its political reasons too and so are the reasons for terminating them now,” Salaam told Arab News.

Out of work marriage registrars wait for couples to say ‘I do’ in Bangladesh

Updated 07 July 2020

Out of work marriage registrars wait for couples to say ‘I do’ in Bangladesh

  • Lockdown restrictions mean more people opt for virtual weddings

DHAKA: There were days when Khalilur Rahman Sardar would struggle to take a lunch break during office hours.

As one of Bangladesh’s 7,500 registrars officiating marriages in the country, his days were busy and diary always full.

However, after the government imposed social distancing restrictions in March to limit the spread of coronavirus in the country, the number of couples getting married in person fell drastically as well. Dhaka-based Sardar told Arab News on Monday that he’s been rendered jobless by the pandemic.

“Usually, I register around 20-40 marriages per month. But I have registered only two marriages in June. If the pandemic continues for an indefinite period, I don’t know how we will survive,” said Sardar, who is the president of the Bangladesh Muslim Marriage Registrar Association (BMRA).

With strict restrictions on movement, he said that a majority of couples, especially those residing in different cities, were choosing to get married online, resulting in a “total disaster” for most registrars.

Whereas earlier couples could walk into a marriage registrar’s office to legalise their wedding, nowadays the registrar receives a power of attorney from either the bride or groom to sign on their behalf in the registration book and make the wedding official.

In some cases, the bride or groom sends a signed and scanned copy of a “promise note” as a document of surety for the registrar. In addition to this, the registrar also enlists a guardian to send a video recording of the virtual ceremony for further proof. 

According to law, marriage registrars receive a 12.5 percent commission of the total amount of “Den Mohor,” the money pledged by the groom to his bride as part of a necessary process in a Muslim marriage.

Registrars bear all their office expenses from these earnings.

However, with no source of income due to couples opting for virtual weddings, the BMRA has appealed to the government to grant them a stimulus package or some financial relief.

“We also need to survive, just like other professionals in society. But in a situation with almost no work, how can we do that?” asked Iqbal Hossain, secretary-general of the BMRA.

“Our work volume is down to 5 percent of the normal workload. It’s become a question of our very existence and if it goes like this, many of our colleagues will be forced to switch the profession,” Hossain said.

However, virtual marriages have brought relief for some couples.

“Our marriage ceremony was scheduled to take place in the last week of May. But the COVID-19 pandemic compelled us to postpone all the ceremonies, and it was just a virtual marriage,” said Nusrat D., a resident of Dhaka’s Bangshal area.

She said that since her husband lives in Europe and couldn’t visit Bangladesh due to the international travel ban, they had no option but to exchange vows online.

Wedding planners in Dhaka are making optimum use of the lockdown restrictions, providing tailored packages for virtual marriages.

With charges ranging from $100 to $200, the packages include the services of a marriage registrar, a live musical show which is streamed online and an option to connect a guest list of up to 1,000 people.

“In the past month, I organised a virtual marriage where the groom was in Chottogram, and the bride was in the United Kingdom. I have four to five more clients who have signed up for the package,” said Labib Mohammad, chief executive of Selvice, an event management firm.