Islamabad, Pakistan – Bishop John Joseph, 65, one of Pakistan’s most prominent human rights activists, had been campaigning for decades to reform the country’s strict blasphemy laws.
On the morning of May 6, 1998, he led a procession to the steps of the court in the central Pakistani town of Sahiwal, where a young man, Ayub Masih, had been convicted and sentenced to death for blasphemy days earlier.
Masih, an illiterate man, had been accused of quoting from Salman Rushdie’s controversial book The Satanic Verses in an argument with a Muslim man. In a controversial trial, a judge found him guilty of having insulted Islam’s prophet and sentenced him to the mandatory death penalty.
Joseph led prayers for Masih and walked protesters to the doors of the court. He then pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head.
The bishop’s suicide was a striking protest against Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, initially a holdover from British colonial rule that were strengthened in independent Pakistan due to pressure from the religious right wing.
In recent years, record numbers of cases are being filed under the law, which can carry a death sentence, inside or outside the courtroom. Last month, several cases were filed against members of the country’s Shia Muslim minority, who form roughly 20 percent of the country’s 207 million population.
Currently, there are about 80 convicts on death row or serving life imprisonment terms in Pakistan for committing “blasphemy”, according to (PDF) the US Commission for International Religious Freedom.
In the last decade, the “offences” committed by those accused of blasphemy have been as absurd as throwing a business card into the rubbish (the man’s name was Muhammad), a rural water dispute, spelling errors, the naming of a child, the design of a place of worship, burning a (non-religious) talisman or sharing a picture on Facebook.
Increasingly, cases are being settled with violence outside the courtroom, with mob and targeted attacks against those accused. In many cases, families and lawyers of the accused, and even judges who have acquitted defendants, have been targeted.
Since 1990, at least 77 people have been killed in connection with such accusations, the latest murder occurring in a courtroom last month.
What makes this issue so emotive in Pakistan?
‘Religious identity tied to the authority of the state’
“There’s no simple answer to this question,” says Arsalan Khan, an anthropologist who studies Islamic revivalist movements.
“In a sense, all religious traditions have deep connections to specific sacred objects and would be hurt by perceived defilement of their religious traditions, but this has certainly taken heightened political significance in Pakistan.”
Khan argues that the heightened significance of “blasphemy” in Pakistan, as opposed to other Muslim countries (including theocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Iran), is linked to the formation of the country in 1947 as a homeland for South Asia’s Muslims.
“Religious identity has been centred as one of the core bases for national belonging in Pakistan,” he says. “When] the state has defined Islam as the ultimate source of sovereignty, such battles have taken on deeper political significance.”
When religious identity and authenticity is tied to the authority of the state, “blasphemy” becomes a site for political contestation.
“What is important in Pakistan is the jostling for position as the true, authentic and passionate representatives of Islam, that has given blasphemy accusations its real force in political life,” explains Khan.
Increasingly, this has seen far-right religious parties rise to prominence campaigning explicitly on the basis of protecting the “honour” and “sanctity” of Islam and its Prophet Muhammad.
That rise can be traced to the murder of Salman Taseer, then-governor of Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province, in January 2011. Taseer had been campaigning for months to reform the country’s blasphemy laws as he sought justice for a young Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who had been sentenced to death for the crime.
He was killed by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, for his campaign against the controversial law. Qadri was executed five years later for the shocking murder, but he was hailed as a hero, even a saint, by many in Pakistan for his act of killing a perceived blasphemer.
Two months after Taseer’s murder, a federal minister was shot dead by the Pakistan Taliban for the same reason.
The murders, and subsequent public mobilisation in support of violence in the name of the blasphemy law, gave religious parties that represented the country’s majority Sunni Muslim Barelvi sect, long sidelined from political prominence, an opportunity to regain lost political ground, say analysts.
“After Taseer’s assassination and the lionisation of Mumtaz Qadri, it is clear that Barelvis begin to position themselves as the group that are the true ‘ashiq-e-Rasool’ [lovers of the Prophet] and assume the position as true representatives of Islam in the public arena through blasphemy,” says Khan.
Barelvis form roughly half of Pakistan’s population, and their beliefs are a synthesis of conservative Islam and South Asian Sufi practices, including the veneration of saints and a particular devotion to the Prophet Muhammad.
The Sunni Tehreek (ST) political party, then the largest Barelvi political party, saw its ranks swell. With hardline Barelvi clerics across the country taking up the issue of blasphemy to whip up public outrage, a new political party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was formed in the run-up to the 2018 general election.
The TLP led large anti-government protests over perceived “blasphemy” in 2017. Though it could not win a seat in the national parliament in the 2018 polls, it did gain the fourth-highest share of the popular vote in that general election.
“Electoral success is ultimately a secondary goal for these religious movements,” says Khan. “The aim of blasphemy politics is ultimately about defining yourself as the authentic representative of Islam in the public sphere […] which in turn forces the Pakistani state, which defines its own sovereignty in relationship to Islam, to yield to this power.”
The laws, lawyers and analysts say, are treated by followers of the TLP and others who support them as “sacred”, having been laid down by God.
But are they?
A law inherited from British colonial rulers
Pakistan inherited its blasphemy laws from its former British colonial rulers, who in 1860 introduced a set of laws related to religion in order to quell Hindu-Muslim violence in the Indian subcontinent.
The laws were strengthened in 1927 with the addition of a vague clause to criminalise “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious believers”, in response to a high-profile case that ultimately ended in the murder of a Hindu man who published a pamphlet deemed “blasphemous” by some Muslims.
Between 1860 and 1947, when Pakistan gained independence from the British and broke away from India, there were just seven recorded cases of blasphemy, according to a report by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).
Use of the law remained rare in the following decades, with just 10 judgments relating to offences against religion reported until 1977, according to a report by the International Commission of Jurists.
In 1974, however, then-Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government oversaw the introduction of a constitutional amendment that declared members of the Ahmadiyya sect “non-Muslim”.
Between 1980 and 1986, the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq further strengthened the laws, adding five new clauses, all specific to Islam and criminalising offences such as defiling the Holy Quran, insulting Islam’s Prophet or using “derogatory” language against certain religious figures.
During Haq’s rule, from 1977-1988, the number of cases skyrocketed, with more than 80 blasphemy cases filed in that period, according to the CRSS.
That trend continued through the 1990s, in particular after a controversial higher Islamic court decision in 1991 that made the imposition of the death penalty mandatory for the crime of insulting Islam’s prophet.
Between 2011 and 2015, the latest period for which consolidated data is available, there were more than 1,296 blasphemy cases filed in Pakistan.
The laws are now treated as sacred, but experts say there is no clear definition of “blasphemy” in Islamic jurisprudence, nor is there agreement on the punishment for it.
“There are as many definitions and positions on blasphemy as there are Muslim countries and scholars,” says Arafat Mazhar, a filmmaker and director of the Engage Pakistan research collective. “Many Muslim countries have laws that deal with religious or sacred figures, or religion as a whole, as opposed to the very specific laws enacted in Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s laws are some of the strictest in the world, harsher and more specific than comparable laws in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Afghanistan and other countries.
Mazhar says other countries’ laws appear to be informed by the variance in Islamic scholars’ views on the issue.
“Scholars consider a range of factors – such as whether the offender is Muslim or non-Muslim, the severity of the insult, whether or not the person is a habitual offender, the mental state of the offender, whether what they said is a part of their faith, intent to insult, whether or not they repent […] – to reach an incredibly wide range of conclusions,” he told Al Jazeera.
Pakistan’s strict interpretation of the issue, he says, “is based on manufactured interpretations”.
“The legislative process for [a key clause] which made the death penalty mandatory, are full of misleading and edited references to books of Islamic jurisprudence,” he says, citing several examples.
Since 2011, with the rise of a new wave of Barelvi politicians and clerics campaigning on “blasphemy”, experts say there has also been a change in the motive for blasphemy accusations.
Previously, lawyers told Al Jazeera, most accusations could be traced to pre-existing disputes between the two parties. These were often personal disputes, arguments or ongoing battles over land ownership.
In recent times, however, that has changed.
“With the rise of TLP and, in particular, the weaponisation and politicisation of ‘ishq-e-Rasool’, there is a greater ideological interest in blasphemy cases regardless of personal altercations,” says Mazhar.
The shift in vested interest, argues Mazhar, has now moved from being personal, between the plaintiff and the accused, to being in the interest of political and religious groups.
“The personal vested interest in blasphemy cases has shifted to another form of vested interest: one that is much more organised and has to do with political and social power.”
In that situation, when such groups repeatedly bring thousands onto the streets over any perceived sign that the laws may be reformed, will it ever be possible for the laws to change?
“The assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011 turned a debate on the blasphemy law into a death sentence,” says Cyril Almeida, a senior journalist.
“Since then, even the semblance of momentum towards legislative debate has stalled and, more recently, been entirely reversed – far-right religious groups now campaign explicitly on protecting the blasphemy laws from any tampering.”
Given a vast structure designed to create public pressure on the issue of blasphemy, lower-court conviction rates for blasphemy cases remain high, even in cases where the evidence is flimsy. For Ayub Masih, over whose case Bishop John Joseph took his own life, the pendulum swung towards justice.
He was acquitted by the country’s Supreme Court in 2002, after six years in prison.
Joseph, who never lived to see that day, wrote a letter to the media on the day of his suicide, the words of which may still echo for those who continue to fight against injustice in the name of blasphemy.
“Now we must act strongly and in unity, Christians and Muslims, in order, not only, to get [Masih’s] death sentence suspended, but to get [the blasphemy laws] repealed without worrying about the sacrifice we will have to offer.
“Dedicated persons do not count the cost.”
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim
All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.
Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.
The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.
The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.
In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.
Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.
It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.
Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.
Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.
Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.
The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”
At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.
On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.
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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year
From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.
Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.
Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.
The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.
Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.
Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.
Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Calls for urgent reduction of violence
Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.
Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.
There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.
1/4 I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.
But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
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