Dec 4, 2013
Dec 4, 2013
Dec 4, 2013
- The need of more provinces for Federation or Division?
- Shouldn’t Punjab government be held responsible for the deaths due to consumption of poisonous cough syrup in Punjab?
- Is Delimitation without census alone in Karachi is fair with the people of Karachi?
- Extremist Religious Groups in Pakistan Justifies: "Attack on Malala Yousuf Zai is a Reaction of Drone-attacks"
- In Quaid’s Pakistan Independence is a Responsibility not a Privilege: Are you ready to play your part?
- Do you think that the recent statement of Mr. Altaf Hussain is an eye opener for the Pakistani Nation?
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LONDON: An outspoken lawmaker who declared an “Israel-free zone” in a northern English city suffered a suspected broken jaw in an attack believed to be linked to his support for the Palestinians, his party said on Saturday.
George Galloway, who once lauded Saddam Hussein and criticised the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the Iraqi leader, was attacked in west London on Friday night.
“It is thought that the attack is connected to Mr Galloway’s support for the Palestinian cause,” the left-wing Respect Party said in a statement.
The outspoken Scot, dubbed “Gorgeous George” by the British media, recently made headlines when he declared Bradford to be an Israel-free zone and urged people to reject all Israeli goods, services and even tourists.
A Respect spokesperson said the incident appeared to be connected with Israel because the attacker had been shouting something about the Holocaust.
Police said a 39-year-old man had been arrested and taken to a south London police station where he remained in custody.
Galloway, one of a handful of independent MPs in the Westminster parliament, stunned British politics when he won his West Bradford seat in 2012. The city has a large Muslim minority.
MANILA: Philippine UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights clashed with Syrian rebels Saturday, Defence Minister Voltaire Gazmin said in Manila.
He said in an SMS statement to reporters that the Filipino troops had been “extricated” from one of their two positions but added that another group of Filipino soldiers “is now under attack”.
He was referring to two positions on the Golan Heights where more than 70 Filipino troops had previously been surrounded by Syrian rebels.
The peacekeepers were besieged by rebels on Thursday but defied demands that they give up their weapons. On Friday Syrian fighters took 43 Fijian soldiers hostage on the Golan Heights.
Asked if there was a fresh firefight Saturday, Gazmin replied: “Yes”.
He said the clash took place at “6am, Syria time,” but added that “morale is high” among the troops.
Military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala later told AFP that “there is still an ongoing standoff but there was a firefight earlier today”.
“All our troops are safe,” he said, adding that the defence minister and head of the military were monitoring developments. He declined to elaborate further on the incident.
Earlier Saturday, a spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino said he was “keeping a close watch” on the fate of the troops who were serving as part of the peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights.
The Philippine military earlier said there were 75 besieged troops but the UN later said there were only 72.
The head of Filipino troops on UN missions Colonel Roberto Ancan said in Manila on Friday that “we can use deadly force in defence of the UN facilities”.
Syrian rebels, including fighters from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed a Golan Heights crossing on Wednesday, sparking an exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops.
The rebels then captured 44 Fijian members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Syrian side on Thursday, forcing them to surrender their weapons and taking them hostage.
Ancan said the rebels then used an English-speaking Fijian hostage to relay their demand to the Filipino peacekeepers to give up their weapons, but they refused.
NEW DELHI: India’s top police agency has dropped a corruption case against leading industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, who had been accused conspiring to obtain a coal block at a cut-rate price nearly a decade ago.
The case filed last October against Birla, viewed in India’s sometimes murky corporate world as a by-the-book player, had sent shock waves through business community at the time.
The Central Bureau of Investigation said late Friday in a statement evidence “did not substantiate the allegations” of criminal conspiracy.
“There was no evidence of criminal conspiracy,” the agency said.
The case stemmed from the 2005 awarding of a coal block to Hindalco Industries, one of Asia’s biggest primary aluminium producers and part of the Aditya Birla conglomerate headed by Birla.
The police force also dropped its corruption investigation against a former top government coal ministry bureaucrat, P.C. Parakh.
Both men had denied any wrongdoing.
The coal block allocation was probed as part of a scandal in which India’s federal auditor in 2012 accused the government of underpricing coal mines and giving away billions of dollars in windfall gains to companies.
While police are not pursuing charges against Birla and Parakh, the Supreme Court ruled last Monday the awarding of coal blocks from 1993 to as far as 2010 was illegal, creating new uncertainty for energy-hungry India.
New legislation to auction coal blocks instead of through a government screening committee became law in September 2010.
A Supreme Court hearing will be held on Monday to consider whether the allocations should be cancelled.
The court said in its ruling there were “legal flaws” in the procedure for awarding the nearly 220 coal blocks in India, which relies on the fuel to generate over half its power.
In 2012, when the previous Congress government was in power, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 telecommunications licences sold at below-market prices, causing upheaval in the fast-growing cellular industry.
Many coal blocks were awarded during the Congress government. It was ousted in May after a decade in power by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi, who vowed to stamp out corruption.
The scandal came to prominence under Congress although the BJP was also in power for part of the period cited by the court.
Many of the coal blocks are still lying idle, but mining is under way in others. The government has seized back around 80 blocks because they are not being mined.
India has one of the world’s biggest proven reserves of coal but disarray in the sector means demand still outstrips supply, causing huge power outages and hurting industrial output.
MOGADISHU: Somali and African Union forces have launched a long-awaited fresh offensive against Shebab militant fighters aimed to capture remaining ports from the extremists, army and government officials said Saturday.
“Operation Indian Ocean started late last night…. the enemy is fleeing and the forces are making successful advances so far,” said Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, the governor of southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region.
Witnesses reported hearing the booms of heavy shelling, as well as seeing convoys of tanks and armoured vehicles heading towards the Shebab stronghold of Bulomarer, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
The al Qaeda-linked Shebab are still a powerful and dangerous force but have lost a string of towns to the 22,000-strong AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
AMISOM and Somali government troops were also seen on roads towards Barawe, the last major port held by the hardline gunmen.
“We are heading towards Bulomarer town,” Nur added. “The operations will not stop until the al Qaeda militants are eliminated.”
In January 2013, French commandos carried out a botched raid on Bulomarer in a bid to free a secret agent held hostage.
The bid failed and resulted in the death of two French soldiers and the hostage.
“We are hearing heavy shelling,” said Ali Mohamed, who lives close to the Bulomarer, adding that fighting close to the town.
“I saw an AMISOM military convoy including several tanks this morning headed towards Bulomarer and Barawe,” said Hussein Mumin, another local resident.
The southern port of Barawe is now one of the few major settlements under their control, and is vital to Shebab finances, as the main hub of a multi-million dollar charcoal trade.
The Shebab are fighting to topple Somalia’s internationally-backed government, and regularly launch attacks against state targets, as well as in neighbouring countries that contribute to the AU force.
The fighting comes as UN and aid workers warn large areas of Somalia are struggling with dire hunger and drought, three years after famine killed more than a quarter of a million people.
SYDNEY: The two best known members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot Saturday called on Australia to withdraw its invitation to President Vladimir Putin to attend this year’s G20 summit.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, in Sydney to speak at a festival, spent 22 months in jail after staging a protest performance in a Moscow cathedral in 2012.
“We think that this person has no place at the G20,” Alyokhina told a packed Sydney Opera House audience through an interpreter.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said this week that calls for Putin to be excluded from the G20 talks in Brisbane in November given the situation in Ukraine were weighing on his mind.
“It’s not a decision which Australia really has a right to make unilaterally,” he told reporters on Friday.
Abbott has described Russia’s involvement in Ukraine as that of a bully and has warned Putin he faces becoming an international outcast unless he keeps his forces within their borders.
“If, as seems to have been the case, Russian armed forces have simply moved across the border, that is an invasion,” Abbott said Friday. “And it is utterly reprehensible.”
The two Pussy Riot women were convicted over their performance critical of Putin in a Moscow cathedral in 2012. They had almost served their sentences in full when they were freed under a general amnesty in December.
Speaking at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, they women said the situation in Russia was so repressive they would not now be able to repeat their cathedral performance.
“Unfortunately it wouldn’t be even one second of our performance,” said Alyokhina, saying a planned performance in Sochi during the Winter Olympics earlier this year was cut short by authorities.
“Now it’s impossible to do anything.”
The pair again insisted they remained members of Pussy Riot, saying “anybody can be a member”, and said they would push ahead with their efforts to defend the rights of prisoners.
Tolokonnikova acknowledged that for some people in Russia, their case had been an impetus for political activity.
“We have a voice and we hope that we use this voice correctly,” she said.
NEW DELHI: India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi left Saturday for a trip to Japan aimed at strengthening ties with counterpart Shinzo Abe and boosting trade between Asia’s second and third largest economies.
The two leaders, both right-wing nationalists elected on a pledge to revive their countries’ economies, also share an interest in shoring up regional alliances to counter an increasingly assertive China.
Before leaving India, the 63-year-old premier said he was confident that his five-day visit would “write a new chapter” in bilateral relations with Japan in areas including defence, nuclear energy and infrastructure.
“We will explore how Japan can associate itself productively with my vision of inclusive development in India, including the transformation of India’s manufacturing, infrastructure, energy and social sectors,” he said in a statement.
It is Modi’s first bilateral visit outside South Asia since taking office, which he says signals “the high priority that Japan receives in our foreign and economic policies.”
Modi and Abe will meet privately in the historic city of Kyoto on Saturday before holding official talks in Tokyo.
Modi was initially scheduled to travel to Tokyo in early July, but altered his plans to be in India for his new government’s first budget session since its landslide election victory in May.
Both men are seen as strong leaders who have championed deregulation to kickstart their countries’ flagging economies.
Modi added that he would try to cultivate deeper defence ties with Abe at a time when both nations are embroiled in territorial disputes with China.
On Monday, he will meet Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera as the two countries seek to counter China’s increasing regional assertiveness.
A Japanese official who asked not to be named said India had expressed interest in buying amphibious search-and-rescue planes for its defence forces.
Japan lifted its self-imposed ban on military exports earlier this year, clearing the way for such a deal.
The Indian foreign ministry said Modi’s focus would also be on boosting Indian exports — he is reportedly travelling with a large business delegation — and seek Japanese support in infrastructural developments.
This could include Japanese investment in new high-speed train networks after the new government said the country’s dilapidated railways needed an “immediate course correction”.
India’s new government has changed limits on foreign direct investment in defence and did away with them altogether for the railway industry.
Japan is famous for its “Shinkansen” bullet train system, but rival China has had more success exporting its technology at lower prices.
Japan is India’s fourth-largest investor, with Japanese firms involved in infrastructure projects including the Delhi Metro, while Japanese automakers have long been churning out cars in India.
The two leaders are also expected to restart negotiations on nuclear energy, which have been suspended since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, to help India’s crippling power shortages.
Trade between India and Japan has steadily increased over the last decade, and the two countries signed a free trade pact in 2011.
KABUL: Taliban militants Saturday attacked an Afghan intelligence service office in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing at least three people in a bomb and gun assault, officials said.
“The attack was carried out by a vehicle bomb on the Nangarhar provincial NDS office, and then some militants started attacking the office,” Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, spokesperson for the Nangarhar provincial governor, told AFP.
“Nangarhar NDS (National Directorate of Security) told us at least three of their employees were killed in the attack.”
The militants and NDS employees exchanged fire early Saturday.
The head of Nangarhar public hospital told AFP they had received six bodies.
“Six dead bodies and 46 wounded were brought to the hospital – 26 of them are admitted and the rest were discharged,” doctor Najeebullah Kamawal said, adding the injuries were due to flying glass.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in an email statement to the media, claiming several NDS agents were killed in the attack.
The intelligence service has regularly been targeted by the militants.
In December 2012, NDS head Asadullah Khalid was seriously wounded in an attack by a Taliban “envoy” who detonated an explosive device hidden in his underwear.
The militants have stepped up attacks on symbols of power in recent weeks, seeing to destabilise the fragile Afghan state which is in the midst of a political crisis over the appointment of a new president to succeed Hamid Karzai, who has led the country for 13 years.
I recently travelled to Tripoli, Libya, for my summer vacations. My father had been working and living there for quite some time and according to him, the crisis in the country had been highly exaggerated. Things in the capital seemed calm enough, but it was an uneasy calm. At the other end of the country, things in Benghazi were getting worse with each day.
In Tripoli, we stayed in our home most of the time as we were foreigners and we had heard that it wasn’t safe to roam around. However, we still managed to visit the beach twice before the parliamentary elections and were entranced by the beauty and clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
In June, as the elections neared, my father thought it would be wise to leave the country and so, we started applying for visas. It wasn’t easy. Neighbouring Tunisia required at least a month to process applications. After all US citizens and UN officials had been evacuated from the country, many embassies pulled out their officials.
At a dead end, we applied for a Turkish visa, said to be a quicker process than the others. In Turkey, there were none of the restrictions we had faced as ‘tourists’ in Libya. We woke early, visited tourist attractions, ate anywhere. The last two days of our visit coincided with the month of Ramazan. We then headed back to Libya.
Upon our return, we learned that the Islamist party, the party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and who had been in power since Muammar Al Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, were losing the election. Only 1.5m people had registered to vote and turnout was only 630,000, according to officials. The election was marred by violence and the murder of the country’s most prominent human rights activist, Salwa Bugaighis. Islamist parties like the Justice and Construction Party were angered, but none of us could have imagined the lengths to which they would go to get power.
This was the start of a truly dark time for us, the Libyans, and anyone related to Libya.
One day, we heard the sound of gunfire while we were in our home. We didn’t know it was gunfire at first. The fireworks in Libya have a strange property: they sound exactly like gunfire. When my father had first arrived in Tripoli, he had explained this to us during video calls when we would hear the sound of fireworks. We had heard this sound so many times that we took no notice of it anymore. But when my father returned from work early, we found out the nature of the sounds we had been hearing: Tripoli International Airport had been attacked. The airport was closed and all flights to Tripoli terminated.
Now to understand the nature of this attack you will have to understand a bit of the history of Libya. After the ‘Revolution’ had taken place in Egypt and President Hosni Mubarak had been overthrown, the idea spread across North Africa like wildfire. Soon, the Libyans were dissatisfied with their dictatorial leadership and weapons were distributed to everyone, and by everyone I mean everyone. There had been many militias before this but under Gaddafi, they had remained quiet. In the fever of the ‘Revolution’, they united against a common enemy: Gaddafi.
So followed the ‘Revolution’ and Gaddafi was overthrown, but now there was a new problem: who was to rule, and how were national assets going to be divided? The Libyan nation had grown to despise anyone with ties to Gaddafi and hence anyone associated with Gaddafi could not be a part of the government. In one fell swoop, all experienced politicians were cut out.
The militias had been very busy in this time. All revenue-generating areas like the airport and oilfields were captured and remain under the militias’ control to this day. A militia with a comparatively liberal mindset had controlled the airport until the attack in mid-July. Now, the Misurata-based Islamist militia group attacked the airport to wrest control of it.
When we learned this, we panicked. With reports of unrest in the city, we had been thinking of leaving Libya. Now, we couldn’t leave even if we wanted to. We felt we had stepped into a trap after we returned to Libya from Turkey.
After the attack, we all stayed home. The day was spent listening to the sound of gunshots or bombings. The sound was so intense it felt as though the buildings next to us were under attack. We were terrified. My parents tried to act normally, but what was the use? We weren’t two-year-olds.
By August, intense fighting between rival armed groups and militias in Tripoli and Benghazi killed 214 people and injured 981, according to the Ministry of Health. Every day my father made plans to get out of Libya. All searches for tickets were fruitless. For any plan to succeed, we needed visas and no embassy was open in Libya. After many tries, my father got his hands on Turkish visas. We could finally go home.
Only three airlines operated in Libya at the time – Libyan airlines, Afriqiya Airways and Turkish airlines – and that too at an irregular schedule. My father entrusted our passports to a staff member of a bank in order to get us tickets. We packed our bags and waited. My father said we could have to leave at any moment, as we did not know what time the flight could arrive. My father stayed up all night, waiting for a call telling him we could escape this ghost town.
We waited 24 hours and finally got a call. After customary checks at the makeshift airport, we departed after a mere 30 minutes. On the airplane, we heaved a sigh of relief. However, the relief was short-lived. After an hour, an announcement was made in Arabic – we couldn’t understand head or tail of it – and we landed in an unknown area. As we waited, the worst scenarios ran through our minds. Finally, someone explained that the plane had landed to refuel. After an anxious wait, we set off again, headed finally for Pakistan.
(The writer is a student of Class 10 at the CAS School in Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.
ISLAMABAD: Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to transfer power to the new leader on September 2 in the country’s first ever democratic transition. However, the United Nations now says the anti-fraud audit of nearly eight million ballots from the June presidential runoff could be completed around September 10 under its supervision. This means the swearing in of the new president is likely to face another delay.
The audit process was disrupted again this week after Dr Abdullah Abdullah pulled out his observers from the audit process, claiming their demands to broaden the criteria to identify fraud were not entertained by UN supervisors.
The UN regretted Dr Abdullah’s decision to not participate in the audit process and encouraged reviewing this move.
UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom said this week that the process will now proceed to its conclusion without the direct engagement of representatives of either presidential candidate in the physical audit.
“The UN believes that both the 100% nationwide audit and the formation of a government of national unity are vital pillars to achieve a credible electoral outcome and a peaceful transfer of power that millions of Afghans [have] voted for,” a UN statement quoted Haysom as saying.
Following Abdullah’s decision, the UN mission in Kabul requested the team of Dr Ashraf Ghani to review its own participation in the interests of protecting the integrity of the audit process. Ghani’s team also subsequently withdrew from the process and election authorities continued the audit process after a brief pause.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Friday said about 76% votes have been audited and recounted and that the process is ongoing. IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor, however, did not give any specific date for announcement of the results.
Earlier, US Secretary of State brokered two deals between rival candidates to carry out the audit of all votes and to form a government of national unity.
On Thursday, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, briefed President Karzai on the progress of the audit process and said a rigorous and credible audit required time, but could be completed around September 10.
“Following all necessary steps, as required by law, the inauguration of the new president should then be possible soon after,” a UN statement said following Karzai’s decision to transfer power to his successor on September 2.
President Hamid Karzai had earlier also assured the Nato leadership that the new Afghan president would participate in the alliance’s summit on September 4. The summit is considered very important as Nato will focus on the withdrawal strategy and Afghanistan’s security after the 2014 endgame.
Dr Abdullah and Dr Ghani agreed in July to resolve their contest through a complete audit of votes cast in the June run-off elections. The purpose of the audit—secured with the assistance of US Secretary of State John Kerry—was aimed at separating fraudulent ballots and to determine the will of the millions of Afghan voters.
As political tension continues to mount in Afghanistan, the United Nations has also sought Pakistan’s support for a smooth political transition.
On Wednesday, Ján Kubiš met Pakistan’s national security adviser, Sartaj Aziz, and the foreign secretary in Islamabad to discuss Islamabad’s assistance in the Afghan political transition.
A foreign ministry official said the UN representative “sought support of all the neighbors of Afghanistan for the political transition in the strife-torn county. Pakistan reiterated its resolve in helping those efforts.”
A UN official in Islamabad said, “Ján Kubiš briefed Pakistani officials on the latest situation of the political transition and audit process and updated himself about their views.”
“Pakistan’s response was very positive as senior officials reiterated their support for a peaceful political transition,” the official told The Express Tribune on Friday.
Efforts are under way to address the disagreement between the two electoral camps, but a section of the Afghan media is still skeptical about the election dispute.
“Both presidential candidates should pay attention to what they had agreed upon, otherwise it will be difficult to manage the fight against the Taliban without establishment of a national unity government and ensuring democratic legitimacy of the future president,” stated the independent Hasht-e Sobh. “This time, the biggest threat to Afghanistan is the Taliban … The electoral camps should also consider these issues and make efforts to address differences fundamentally,” the paper said in its editorial this week.
Besides differences over the audit process, there are still problems over the composition of the government of national unity.
Private daily Afghanistan said although the negotiating teams have made good progress during negotiations and have solved misunderstandings, disagreements and differences in opinions about words and terms, they could not address differences over the authority of the chief executive.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.
Breaking his silence over the stalled peace talks, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused Pakistan of having made a “spectacle” of India’s efforts to pursue warmer relations.
The foreign secretary-level talks between the two sides, which had been set for August 25 in Islamabad were called off after Pakistan’s high commissioner to New Delhi met Kashmiri leaders.
“We… were disappointed that Pakistan sought to make a spectacle of these efforts and went ahead with talks with secessionist elements from Jammu and Kashmir,” said Modi, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.
However, Modi said he would pursue efforts to mend relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours who have fought three wars, two over the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.
“We will continue to make efforts to build peaceful, friendly and cooperative ties with Pakistan,” he said.
Modi, who took power in May, was speaking to reporters ahead of a maiden visit to Japan as India’s prime minister.
Pakistan’s foreign office had described meetings with Kashmiri leaders as a longstanding and regular practice ahead of talks with India.
Pakistan described the Hurriyat leaders as “stakeholders” in efforts to normalise relations between the two countries, and said the meetings were held “to facilitate meaningful discussions” with India.
Modi’s surprise move to invite his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his swearing-in ceremony spurred hopes that peace talks between the two countries could resume.
But tensions have been rising between the countries because of several ceasefire violations along the border.
Earlier this month, the Indian premier accused Islamabad of waging a “proxy war” by sending militants to attack Indian targets.
Meanwhile, the second Made In Pakistan Expo in Mumbai, scheduled to start August 31, was abruptly cancelled at the last minute by organisers on Friday. In a terse statement, the organisers said, “We would like to inform you that due to the tense situation at the Line of Control (LoC) and on the advice from our partners ‘World Trade Centre’, we have ‘postponed’ the 2nd edition of MIPEM 2014.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2014.
GENEVA: Pakistan has sought help from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to evacuate citizens stranded in crisis hit Libya.
Thousands of Pakistanis are stranded in Libya. So far 709 Pakistanis have been evacuated through special flights of PIA. Currently there are 1,700 Pakistanis in a special relief camp set up by the embassy in Tripoli.
The IOM said it had received requests from Pakistan along with the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to help their citizens leave Libya.
Migrants hit hard
Migrants have been hit hard by the spiralling conflict in Libya which could lead to more of them taking to unseaworthy boats to try to reach Italy, the IOM warned on Friday.
“IOM is concerned that the number of migrants trying to reach Italy from Libya by sea could increase in the coming weeks, as more people decide to opt for the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to escape ongoing fighting in the Libyan capital,” the IOM said in a statement.
Migrants either working in Libya or using the country as a jumping off point as they seek to reach Europe illegally are particularly vulnerable to the country’s raging instability.
“Displaced migrants trapped in Tripoli have been particularly hard hit,” the IOM said.
A week ago, 10 Sudanese were killed when a stray missile hit a house in a besieged district of Tripoli, where an estimated 15,000 Sudanese live.
IOM staff have also identified some 2,000 Pakistanis who have found refuge in a school in central Tripoli.
“The place is overcrowded and everyone is anxious to be repatriated. But in the meantime, they urgently need food and medical care,” said Othman Belbeisi, head of the IOM’s Libya operations.
The situation of migrants in detention centres is also deteriorating, the IOM said.
Libya has 18 such centres for illegal migrants, holding a total of between 4,000 and 6,000 people.
The centres are running out of gas, water and food, and some have released inmates as they can no longer afford to provide adequate food and sanitation, the IOM said.
The organisation also said it was working with the Ethiopian embassy in neighbouring Egypt to obtain travel documents for a number of Ethiopian women who had been detained, and would help them get home.
GENEVA: The United States must stem police racism and brutality, a UN watchdog said Friday, as debate rages over the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white officer in Missouri.
“The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against racial and ethnic minorities is an ongoing issue of concern, particularly in light of the shooting of Michael Brown,” said Noureddine Amir, who headed a review of the US by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“This is not an isolated event,” Amir told reporters.
“It illustrates a big problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials,” he added.
Brown, 18, was killed on August 9 in the suburb of Ferguson in St Louis, sparking nearly two weeks of street protests in which heavily-armed law enforcement officers faced down demonstrators.
Brown was shot at least six times by white policeman Darren Wilson as he walked down a street after leaving a store where police say he stole a box of cigars.
Accounts differ widely, with police alleging Brown tried to grab Wilson’s gun and witnesses saying he was shot with his hands up in a sign of surrender.
Although street protests have subsided, the debate over racial discrimination and distrust between African Americans and the police rages on.
Critics also charge that the handling of the protests shows US police are increasingly “militarised” in their weapons and tactics.
A grand jury in St Louis is tasked with deciding whether to bring charges against 28-year-old Wilson, who is on paid leave.
“The United States must ensure that every case of excessive use of force is promptly and effectively investigated and the alleged perpetrators prosecuted and the victims or their families are adequately compensated,” said Amir.
“It should undertake complete and comprehensive measures to address the root causes and avoid any future recurrence of such tragic incidents,” he added.
Amir also cited the separate 2012 killings of unarmed 17-year-olds Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, whose shooters claimed self-defence under controversial “stand your ground” laws.
Their deaths stoked outrage over racial profiling and lax US gun laws.
“The United States government should take effective measures to protect the lives of all individuals and to reduce armed violence,” said Amir.
The UN panel of 18 independent experts assessed the US record on August 13 and 14, with presentations from US officials and campaigners.
The hearing was not called over the Brown case — UN members come up automatically for review every few years.
“These findings shine a light on US shortcomings on racial equality that we’re seeing play out today,” Jamil Dakwar, of the American Civil Liberties Union, told AFP.
“The recent killing of Michel Brown is a tragic reminder of the need to address structural discrimination and pervasive injustice, especially within the criminal justice system,” he said.
GENEVA: Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, an exodus that began in March 2011 and shows no sign of abating, the United Nations said.
The record figure is one million refugees more than a year ago, while a further 6.5 million are displaced within Syria, meaning that “almost half of all Syrians have now been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives”, it said.
“The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.
The vast majority remain in neighboring countries, with the highest concentrations in Lebanon (1.14 million), Turkey (815,000) and Jordan (608,000), the UNHCR said. Some 215,000 refugees are in Iraq with the rest in Egypt and other countries.
In addition, the host governments estimate that hundreds of thousands more Syrians have sought sanctuary in their countries without formally registering, the agency said.
Increasing numbers of families arrive in a shocking state, exhausted, scared and with their savings depleted, it said. “Most have been on the run for a year or more, fleeing from village to village before taking the final decision to leave.”
“There are worrying signs too that the journey out of Syria is becoming tougher, with many people forced to pay bribes at armed checkpoints proliferating along the borders. Refugees crossing the desert into eastern Jordan are being forced to pay smugglers hefty sums (ranging from $100 per person or more) to take them to safety,” it added.
Syrians now constitute the world’s largest refugee population under the care of the UNHCR, second only in number to refugees in the decades-old Palestinian crisis that falls under the mandate of a separate UN agency UNRWA, it said.
A recent upsurge in fighting appears to be worsening an already desperate situation, the statement said.
More than 191,000 people were killed in the first three years of Syria’s civil war, a UN report said last week in what
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called a “wholly avoidable human catastrophe”.
In another report issued on Wednesday, UN human rights investigators accused Islamic State insurgents of committing war crimes including amputations and public executions in northern Syria, sometimes in the presence of children.
The government of President Bashar al Assad is dropping deadly barrel bombs on civilian areas and Damascus is believed to have used chlorine gas in combating its enemies, they said.
The United States is pushing to build an international campaign against Islamic State militants fighters in Iraq and Syria, including partners for potential joint military action, Obama administration officials said on Thursday.
The UNHCR report said some areas of Syria were emptying out as the frontlines in the conflict shifted. “Recent arrivals to Jordan, for example, are running from attacks in the areas of al Raqqa and Aleppo,” the UNHCR said, referring to northern areas of Syria.
The agency voiced deep concern at the fate of several hundred Syrians trapped inside al Obaidy refugee camp in al Qa’im, Iraq, after UN agencies and foreign aid workers were forced to abandon their offices and warehouses due to violence.
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama said on Thursday the United States has not yet developed a strategy for confronting Islamic State in Syria, an acknowledgement that a decision had not been made on whether to launch air strikes against the militant group.
Obama’s comment during a White House news conference before a meeting of national security advisers about how to proceed against Islamic State drew criticism from Republicans and a clarification from White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, said on Twitter:
President says "we don’t have a strategy yet" to deal with #ISIS. That's obvious and increasingly unacceptable.
— Tom Price (@RepTomPrice) August 28, 2014
Earnest said Obama was referring to military options and that Obama has a comprehensive strategy for confronting the group through diplomatic means. Obama’s decision to begin US surveillance flights over Syria this week prompted speculation that he was on the brink of expanding the fight against Islamic State from Iraq into Syria and criticism from some lawmakers concerned that they had not been properly consulted over possible US actions.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called for lawmakers to vote on whether the United States should broaden its action against the Islamic State. Obama shied away from launching air strikes in Syria a year ago to punish Syrian President Bashir al Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people, and he has been reluctant to get involved in Syria’s civil war, believing there are few options for the United States.
Public anger over the beheading of American journalist James Foley, however, has led Obama to consider military strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria. So far, the US has limited its actions to the group’s forces in Iraq. Obama said he has asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to prepare options for confronting Islamic State and said Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to the region to help create an anti-IS coalition.
Obama’s strategy for Islamic State is not limited to military action. It includes supporting moderate Sunni rebels in Syria and encouraging a unity government in Baghdad between Shias and Sunnis, who have engaged in sectarian battles. “My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL (Islamic State) made in Iraq are rolled back and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself,” he said. Obama said the options he had requested from military planners at the Pentagon focused primarily on making certain that Islamic State is “not overrunning Iraq.”
Congressional concerns over potential US military strikes in Syria have increased. In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Democrats James McGovern of Massachusetts and Barbara Lee of California and Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina asked for Congressional debate and a vote on any authorization to use military force. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said he thought Obama would have “significant congressional support” if he provided a strategic plan to protect the United States and its allies from the Sunni militants.
Obama promised that he would consult Congress, but unlike a year ago when strikes were considered against Syria, he did not vow to seek specific congressional authorization.
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said. He said news reports have suggested he is on the verge of an elaborate strategy for defeating the group without consulting Congress. “That’s not what’s going to happen,” he said.
“The Pakistani delegation was extended a warm welcome by the government of China. It was agreed that there should be enhanced cooperation in energy, infrastructure, transport and health sectors between the two countries,” Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Thursday.
He was addressing a gathering of members of the provincial assembly.
Sharif said Pakistan-China friendship has stood the test of time and the two countries had now entered a new era of friendly relations.
He said the Chinese government had also agreed to extend cooperation to the current development projects in Pakistan. He said this was under the development package announced by Chinese government earlier.
The chief minister said the people of Pakistan were thankful for the Chinese people for their confidence in the government’s vision.
Sharif said Pakistan-China relations would be cemented by the agreement between the Punjab government and China after his visit regarding training of Pakistani doctors and paramedical staff at Chinese hospitals.
Sharif said “successful dialogue” was held with Chinese officials and investors during his recent visit.
The chief minister said Chinese companies had shown willingness to invest in various sectors in Pakistan, particularly in the Punjab, which would help resolve poverty and unemployment.
Sharif said that Pakistan nation would extend a warm welcome to the Chinese president during his visit to Pakistan in September.
He said his visit would further strengthen the bond between the two neighbours.
He said Pakistan was a lucky country of the region because it had reliable friend like China.
The chief minister said the Chinese government and the people wanted to see Pakistan prosper and develop and Chinese companies had made huge investments the country.
The chief minister said China was aware of Pakistan’s problems and had shown their support for the prime minister’s vision.
He said electricity projects of thousands of megawatts had been started with the cooperation of China. Once completed, he said, these power plants would rid the country of the energy crisis.
Shahbaz said as per the agreement made between China and the Punjab government, Chinese government would provide medical training to Pakistani doctors and paramedical staff.
He said under the agreement, doctors would be trained in emergency and acupuncture.
He said the training would also raise awareness about use of modern technology in medicine.
“The government is spending billions to provide health facilities to people… a strategy had been adopted for the uplift of health sector,” he said.
He said the agreement signed with China was an important step towards further improvement in the medical facilities for masses in the Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.
NEW DELHI: Twelve students were injured in a clash between hostel residents of Swami Parmanand College of Engineering and Technology in Jaulan Kalan village, near Lalru in Mohali, after some of them reportedly cheered for the Pakistan cricket team while watching a match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan on Tuesday night. Police said 15 students were watching the match when the fight took place.
Students said they were irked by the constant ‘pro-Pakistan cheers’ by the Kashmiri students. The Kashmiri students, however, said they were simply washing their clothes when the incident took place.
Four of the 12 students injured have been admitted to private hospitals. None of them is in critical condition. The students were watching the match in the hostel common room. Some students objected when some of their fellows cheered for the Pakistan team, which in turn led to an altercation. Other students got involved and the two groups reportedly used stones, sticks and any other material they could get their hands on during the fight. Hostel and college property was also vandalised during the fight.
College authorities summoned the police, who brought the students under control.
On Wednesday afternoon, around 30 students, allegedly joined by BJP leaders, blocked the Chandigarh-Ambala national highway for about an hour in protest. SHO Lalru police station Atul Soni said the state-level chief of the BJP Samvad Cell Dhami Sharma and up to 40 unidentified protestors had been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the National Highway Act after their protest on Wednesday.
College principal Dr PD Sharma said the college will remain closed till September 8. He said a complaint had been made to the police but no case has been registered yet. Police say they are verifying the matter and no complaint was lodged by students.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.
KIEV: Ukraine and the West said Thursday that Russian troops were actively involved in the fighting tearing apart the east of the country, raising fears of a direct military confrontation between Kiev and its former Soviet master.
The UN Security Council geared up for an emergency meeting on the crisis as the latest rapid-fire developments sent alarm bells ringing in the United States and Europe.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko held an urgent meeting with his security chiefs after scrapping a visit to Turkey over what a top official described as a “direct invasion” by Russia.
A handout photo provided on August 28, 2014 by DigitalGlobe via NATO allegedly shows Russian self-propelled artillery units set up in firing positions, near Krasnodon, Ukraine. PHOTO: AFP
NATO said at least 1,000 Russian troops were on the ground supporting pro-Kremlin separatists who have been fighting against Kiev’s rule since April, but Moscow insisted none of its soldiers were on Ukrainian soil.
US officials accused Russian troops of being behind a lightning counter-offensive that has seen pro-Moscow rebels seize swathes of territory from government forces, dramatically turning the tide in the four-month conflict.
“I will be frank, the situation is extremely difficult,” Poroshenko told security chiefs.
“But it is manageable, manageable enough for us not to panic, keep a cool head, good sense and continue calculating our actions,” he said.
A handout photo provided on August 28, 2014 by DigitalGlobe via NATO allegedly shows a military deployment site captured on August 20, 2014 (R) on the Russian side of the border near Rostov-on-Don. This location is approximately 31 miles, or 50 kilometres, from the Dovzhansky, Ukraine border crossing. PHOTO: AFP
Kiev said Russian soldiers had seized control of a key southeastern border town and a string of villages in an area where fighting had been raging for days.
“An increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory,” the US ambassador to Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt wrote on Twitter.
A NATO official said the supply of weapons to the rebels had also increased in both “volume and quantity”.
But Russia swiftly denied the allegations, with its envoy to the OSCE pan-European security body insisting: “There are no Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine.”
Britain warned Russia it could face “further consequences” as EU leaders are due to discuss the crisis on their doorstep at a weekend summit.
Fears that the flare-up in the Ukraine conflict could lead to all-out war pushed US stocks into the red at open.
Russia’s ruble also sunk to a five-month low as stock markets in the country plummeted over the possibility of new Western sanctions against Moscow.
Kiev had called on the West for urgent help after a rebel counter-offensive from the southeast border appeared to smash through an army blockade around the separatist stronghold of Donetsk and threaten the government-held port city of Mariupol.
The gains by the separatist fighters come after weeks of government offensives that had seen troops push deep into the last holdout rebel bastions in Ukraine’s industrial heartland.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for having “deliberately unleashed a war in Europe” and called urgent action.
A handout photo provided on August 28, 2014 by DigitalGlobe via NATO allegedly shows Russian military units moving in a convoy formation with self-propelled artillery in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine. PHOTO: AFP
A top rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, admitted Wednesday that Russian troops were fighting alongside his insurgents, but said they were on “holiday” after volunteering to join the battle.
The spiralling tensions come only days after Poroshenko and Putin held their first meeting in three months on Tuesday but failed to achieve any concrete breakthrough despite talk of a peace roadmap.
The EU said it was “extremely concerned” about the escalating developments on its eastern flank and called on Russia to end its “border hostility”.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told Russia to “pursue a different path and to find a political solution to this crisis”.
“If Russia does not, then she should be in no doubt that there will be further consequences,” he said in a statement.
A handout photo provided on August 28, 2014 by DigitalGlobe via NATO allegedly shows six Russian 153mm 2S19 self-propelled guns located in Russia near Kuybyshevo. This site is situated 4 miles, or 6.5 kilometres, south of the Ukraine border, near the village of Chervonyi Zhovten. The guns are pointed north, directly towards Ukrainian territory. PHOTO: AFP
The United States and the EU have already imposed a series of punishing sanctions on Russia over the crisis, the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
Kiev said Russian troops on Wednesday seized control of the key border town of Novoazovsk and a string of surrounding villages along the southeastern strip of the frontier.
A volunteer pro-Kiev commander said government troops were surrounded in the key transport hub of Ilovaysk some 50 kilometres southeast of Donetsk and were running out of ammunition.
Ukraine’s military also claimed a Russian battalion had set up its headquarters near a village in the same area.
AFP journalists reported heavy shelling in Donetsk on Thursday, with local authorities saying 11 civilians had lost their lives in 24 hours.
On Wednesday, the journalists found signs of a hurried retreat by Ukrainian forces after they appeared to have abandoned a key road leading southeast from Donetsk to the Russian border.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday the Kremlin was “not interested in breaking up” Ukraine.
The United Nations estimates the conflict has killed over 2,200 people and forced more than 400,000 to flee since April.
Yatsenyuk said on Wednesday it was time for NATO to act, calling for “practical help” when it holds a summit in Wales next week that will be attended by Poroshenko.
Russia vehemently opposes closer ties between Ukraine and NATO.
And concerns that Kiev could be drawn closer into the Western security alliance — and towards Europe — are seen as a key motivation behind Russia’s actions in recent months.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU also appealed for the bloc to agree on “large-scale” military assistance when European leaders meet on Saturday.
KIEV: Ukraine accused Russia on Thursday of mounting an invasion in the southeast of the country in support of pro-Moscow separatist rebels.
Ukraine’s security and defense council said the border town of Novoazovsk and other parts of Ukraine’s south-east had fallen under the control of Russian forces who together with rebels were staging a counter-offensive.
“A counter-offensive by Russian troops and separatist units is continuing in south-east Ukraine,” the council said in a post on Twitter.
President Petro Poroshenko, in a statement explaining his decision to cancel a visit to Turkey, said: “An invasion of Russian forces has taken place.”
Russia denies intervening in Ukraine by arming the rebels or sending soldiers across the border. The defense ministry declined to comment on reports of Russian tanks in Novoazovsk.
“The Russian authorities clearly said many times there are no regular Russian troops there. Russia is not taking part in this armed conflict,” said a Russian diplomatic source.
The latest escalation in the five-month crisis came only two days after the presidents of the two countries held their first talks in more than two months and agreed to work towards launching a peace process.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk appealed to the United States, European Union and G7 countries “to freeze Russian assets and finances until Russia withdraws armed forces, equipment and agents”.
Rebel advances this week have opened a new front in the conflict just as Ukraine’s army appeared to have gained the upper hand, virtually encircling the separatists in their main strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, said on Facebook: “The invasion of Putin’s regular Russian army of Ukraine is now an established fact!”
French President Francois Hollande said it would be “intolerable and unacceptable” if it was proved true that Russian troops had entered Ukrainian territory.
GENEVA: The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 1,552 people out of 3,069 known cases in four countries and “continues to accelerate”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.
The epidemic in the region, the deadliest since the disease was first discovered in 1976, has killed nearly as many people as all the previous known outbreaks combined.
“More than 40 percent of the total number of cases have occurred within the past 21 days. However, most cases are concentrated in only a few localities,” the United Nations health agency said in a statement.
The WHO is later due to launch a new strategic plan for tackling the spread of the virulent disease.
A separate Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, identified as a different strain of the virus, is not included in the latest figures which cover Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
The disease has overwhelmed West Africa’s already fragile health infrastructure. On Wednesday, the head of the African Development Bank said it was causing enormous damage to the economies of the region.
ANKARA: President Mamnoon Hussain has left for Ankara on a two-day visit to Turkey where he will attend the oath-taking ceremony of the newly elected Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Radio Pakistan reported.
Turkey’s outgoing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was Thursday to be sworn in as president to extend his more than decade-long domination of the country, AFP reported.
Erdogan was due to take his oath of office at 1100 GMT in Ankara and usher in a new era for Turkey, where he is expected to push for a new constitution and seek to further transform the country with development projects.
Taking over Erdogan’s post of prime minister is Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a long standing ally who is expected to do little to challenge the Turkish number one.
Heads of state from a dozen nations in Eastern Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East will attend the ceremony, including Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, the Anatolia news agency reported.
But leaders of top Western states will be conspicuous by their absence in a possible sign of suspicion towards Erdogan, who has been accused of authoritarian tendencies. The United States is only sending its charge d’affaires in Ankara.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, whose country has no diplomatic ties with its giant neighbour, is expected to attend the ceremony.
Erdogan, who became prime minister in 2003, won presidential elections on August 10 against a weak opposition, which accuses him of Islamising tendencies but remains in disarray.
A man clearly with his eye on history, Erdogan during his five-year presidential term will have ruled Turkey longer than its modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established the republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
He can serve two mandates and so could stay in power until 2024, which would allow him to see in the 100th anniversary of modern Turkey in 2023 and portray himself as a historic figure rivalling Ataturk.
Davutoglu was confirmed as party leader at a vast meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at which both men vowed there would be no change in policy, despite the changeover.
“Names have no importance. Names change today but our essence, our mission, our spirits, our goals and ideals remain in place,” Erdogan told the meeting.
Erdogan, who has two sons and two daughters, described the party he helped found as his “fifth child”, but said the “farewell time” had come.
Under Turkish law, the president should sever all ties with political parties — but Erdogan said the party was not just about one person.
“The AKP will never be a one-man party. It is a party of principles,” he said.
Erdogan, however, insisted that Davutoglu would be a figure of real stature and power as prime minister.
“I would like to stress this: Davutoglu is not a caretaker. Everyone should know that.”
Davutoglu said that there would be no conflict with Erdogan and the two would build a new Turkey “hand-in-hand”.
“We will build the new Turkey hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder. No one can sow the seeds of animosity between comrades.”
Showing his combative side, Davutoglu slammed anti-government protests that erupted last year over the redevelopment of an Istanbul park as an attempt “to destroy the self-confidence that we have instilled in our people”.
He vowed to build a strong Turkey that would flourish and would not collapse like the Ottoman Empire after World War I.
“We will not let Turkey face the big disaster that the Ottoman Empire has faced.”
Davutoglu will form a new cabinet by Friday, with intense speculation over who will hold the top jobs.
Press reports have tipped the head of Turkey’s intelligence service Hakan Fidan as a possible new foreign minister, while there is also huge attention on the future of economic pointman and market favourite Ali Babacan in the government.
Davutoglu, who became foreign minister in 2009, is a controversial figure blamed by some for pursuing an over-ambitious foreign policy that led to the rise of militants in Syria.