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Kabul florists heartbroken over Taliban Valentine’s Day ban

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Kabul florists heartbroken over Taliban Valentine's Day ban

Florists with wilting bouquets of red roses and street vendors clutching unsold balloons were heartbroken in the Afghan capital on Tuesday after the Taliban’s morality police banned Valentine’s Day celebrations.

While Valentine’s Day has never been widely celebrated in Afghanistan, some well-off residents in cities have developed a tradition of marking the lovers’ day in recent years.

In Kabul’s famed Flower Street, shops were full of heart-shaped garlands and red stuffed animals, but hopelessly empty of customers.

In the window of one outlet, a poster signed off by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice warned shoppers: “Avoid celebrating lovers’ day!”

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The poster said Valentine’s Day “is not Islamic and is not part of the Afghan culture but a sloganeering day of the infidels”.

“Celebrating the day of lovers is showing sympathy to the Christian Pope,” it read.

Officers from the ministry patrolled the area in their white uniforms, trailed by an armed escort, an AFP correspondent reported.

Kneeling in front of his shop, Omar — who did not share his surname — pruned thorns and withered petals from his stock of flowers.

A poster on the window of a shop in Kabul warns residents to “Avoid celebrating lovers’ day!”

“[The Taliban authorities] published and distributed their order to every shop,” he told AFP.

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“I don’t think I could sell these flowers today, people aren’t buying,” he said.

“You can see we have no customers — the situation is very bad.”

An AFP reporter saw a young couple furtively buy flowers and quickly leave the scene when they saw the morality police patrol.

“The situation has changed — we can’t celebrate it like other years,” said browsing shopper Zahrah, married for seven years.

“But we do celebrate it. There are some restrictions and the situation is not good, but we celebrate it at home.”

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The vice ministry could not be reached for comment on the exact nature of the ban.

Afghan men are reflected on the glass of a gift shop along Flower Street in Kabul

The Taliban authorities have issued various restrictions on social life in the country since they came to power in August 2021.

Music, social media apps and video games have all come under scrutiny by the ultra-conservative government.

The authorities have particularly cracked down on Afghan women, effectively squeezing them out of public life. 

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

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Ukraine sharply boosts delivery of drones to armed forces

Ukraine has delivered three times more drones to its armed forces so far this year than in the whole of 2023, a top commander said, as Ukrainian forces accelerate the use of unmanned craft in the war against Russia.

“This process continues and will only grow,” said Colonel Vadym Sukharevskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s drone forces.

Ukraine, which has been fighting off a full-scale Russian invasion for nearly 26 months, is seeking to ramp up its domestic arms manufacturing and use of innovative technologies to compete against its much larger and wealthier enemy.

He was speaking at an exhibition on Saturday showcasing Ukrainian-made unmanned vehicles for land, sea and air, electronic warfare systems and armoured vehicles.

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Ninety-nine percent of drones used by the Ukrainian military are produced domestically, Sukharevskyi said.

“It’s no secret that our resource limitations in artillery are compensated by drones, such as FPVs (first-person view) and (bomber) drop drones,” he told reporters, referencing an imbalance of artillery firepower between Ukraine and Russia which analysts put at six to one in Russia’s favour.

As the Ukrainian military is outgunned and outmanned on the battlefield, Moscow’s forces have been increasing pressure along the entire frontline and making gradual gains.

The increased use of drones by both sides has been shifting the conflict away from the battlefield to strikes on each other’s military, energy and transport infrastructure.

Ukrainian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), used to hit targets inside Russia in recent months, can now hit targets more than 1,200 km (750 miles) away, Sukharevskyi said.

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Tesla will lay off more than 10% of its workforce.

Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries, said Ukrainian weapons manufacturers had fuelled both military and economic progress in the country.

Ukraine’s booming military-industrial complex grew GDP by 1.5% in 2023, a significant chunk of the total GDP growth last year of around 5%.
Kamyshin said he was confident that figure would double to 3% of GDP growth this year. But he warned Ukraine’s government could not afford to buy up all its domestic weapons production.

Ukraine was in discussions with international allies about the purchase of weapons for Ukraine from Ukrainian makers to cover the financial shortfall, he said.

“I am convinced that we will start purchases from Ukrainian manufacturers with foreign funds in the new future,” he said. 

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari sworn in MNA

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly.

NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq administered the oath.

During the session, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari provided headphones to Aseefa Bhutto Zardari to reduce the noise disturbances as PTI MNAs raised slogans calling for the release of the PTI founder.

Following Aseefa Zardari’s swearing-in, PPP members also chanted slogans in support of the Bhutto family like ‘jiye Bhutto’. 

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Sunday that British military jets shot down drones launched by Iran in its attack on Israel and called for “calm heads to prevail” to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

“I can confirm that our planes did shoot down a number of Iranian attack drones,” Sunak told broadcasters.

“If this attack had been successful, the fallout for regional stability would be hard to overstate. We stand by the security of Israel and the wider region, which is of course important for our security here at home, too. What we now need is for calm heads to prevail.”

Sunak was due to join discussions between Group of Seven leaders later on Sunday.

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“It’s important that we coordinate with allies and we’ll be discussing next steps at that moment,” he said

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