Dozens die in market blasts in southern Afghanistan

Afghans carry the body of a man who was killed during a deadly attack, in the southern Helmand province, Monday. (AP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Dozens die in market blasts in southern Afghanistan

  • Afghan security forces and the Taliban blamed each other for the attack in Sangin district

KABUL: At least 23 civilians were killed on Monday when a series of explosions went off in a cattle market in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand, in what was one of the bloodiest incidents against civilians in recent months.

Afghan security forces and the Taliban blamed each other for the attack in Sangin district, an area under the insurgents’ control.

While the Taliban accused government troops of firing mortars that killed civilians, the army blamed the Taliban for blowing up explosives at the site. Some residents confirmed the Taliban account, alleging the attack was carried out by the army.

Videos circulating on social media showed that the casualties included children.

A bearded man pointing toward two bodies said they were his brother and nephew, and neither of them were Taliban. He was heard saying that the attack was conducted by government forces.

Italian-run hospital Emergency reported receiving 19 bodies, three of them children who succumbed to their injuries while being rushed to the clinic.

In a statement issued by his office, President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack and called on the Taliban to give up violence and begin negotiations.

Peace talks between the insurgents and the government were originally set for early March, but did not take place as Kabul initially refused to accept the Taliban’s condition of releasing the group’s imprisoned fighters.

Both sides have freed hundreds of each other’s prisoners in recent months amid hopes of starting the peace process in June. Officials now expect the negotiations will be held sometime in July, possibly in Qatar.

The talks should come amid a phased withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan. In accordance with an agreement the Taliban signed with the US in late February, all foreign soldiers should leave the country by next spring.

Following the US deal, the Taliban halted attacks on foreign troops but stepped up attacks on government forces.

Hundreds of Taliban and Afghan troops have died, as civilians continue to suffer from the ongoing war.

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

Updated 48 min 47 sec ago

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.