‘We need your help’: Baloch chief minister’s plea to leaders in exile

‘We need your help’: Baloch chief minister’s plea to leaders in exile
Chief Minister of Balochistan, Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo. (APP)
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Updated 12 May 2020

‘We need your help’: Baloch chief minister’s plea to leaders in exile

‘We need your help’: Baloch chief minister’s plea to leaders in exile

QUETTA: Disaffected Baloch leaders living abroad have been urged to return to Pakistan and play their role in the development of the province.
In an exclusive interview, Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, chief minister of Balochistan province, told Arab News that he will make a “well-planned call to the disgruntled leaders” seeking their return.
Balochistan, in southwestern Pakistan, has faced a wave of violence from armed Baloch separatist groups in the past decade. The province is growing in strategic importance because of the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
With Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood Jan, as a central figure, Balochistan’s self-exiled leaders include Brahamdagh Bugti, grandson of late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and head of the Balochistan Republican Party (BRP); Javed Mengal, son of Sardar Attaullah Mengal and head of Lashkar-e-Balochistan; and Mehran Marri, son of Khair Bux Marri and leader of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA).
Dr. Allah Nazr, the most active of the separatists and head of Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), operates from a hidden location in the province.
Saeed Sarbazi, a host at the Baloch VSH News channel, said the province’s natural resources of gold, copper, oil, coal, natural gas were worth billions. 
“The disgruntled leaders believe that these resources have been usurped by the center and hardly anything is given to the province that produces them,” he said.
The grievances are not confined to resources. “Balochistan has been deprived of basic infrastructure, gas, electricity, health and education. The people of Balochistan have to go to Karachi for treatment,” Sarbazi said.
Bizenjo’s predecessors made similar offers of talks, but the incumbent chief minister said his were “well-planned” and offered after “proper homework.” 
“All of them (former chief ministers of Balochistan) had met the separatist leaders in their personal capacity and no one from the government had approached them with proper planning,” he said.
“Many people have surrendered and joined the national mainstream. A lot of homework has been done. Most of the Baloch leadership abroad have never been part of violence, while those having cases against them will have to face the court.
“The people of Balochistan want to remain with Pakistan. They want to fight for their rights within the constitutional limits of Pakistan. We are not for taking up arms and causing damage to the entire Baloch nation,” he said.
“In this fight (by separatists), many young Baloch men have been lost, our economy has been shattered, our education destroyed. Balochistan cannot bear terrorism anymore,” Bizenjo said.
“This was the reason for extending the call (for dialogue) to the people to come and not only raise their voice for the rights of Balochistan but also play their role in the development of the province.”
Bizenjo revealed that he had already met with the self-exiled Baloch leader, the Khan of Kalat Mir Suleman Dawood Jan, who will have central role in any initiative.
“I have met him. He is our elder. We talked on these issues. We now want him to come home and we are striving for it.
 “Khan of Kalat has never resorted to violence. He is our elder. We want him to come back,” Bizenjo said.


Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic
Updated 24 June 2021

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic

Africa CDC says continent not winning against ‘brutal’ COVID-19 pandemic
  • About 1.12 percent people have been fully vaccinated on a continent that has recorded 5.2 million infections

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Africa is not winning its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as a third virus wave sweeps the continent and countries struggle to access enough vaccines for their populations, Africa CDC director John Nkenkasong said on Thursday.
The COVAX program co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fair distribution of vaccines is now planning a shake-up as it has been shunned by rich countries and failing to meet the needs of the poorest, internal documents seen by Reuters show.
Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) director Nkenkasong said he was more worried about getting vaccines in time regardless of where the doses came from.
“The third wave has come with severity that most countries were not prepared for. So the third wave is extremely brutal,” Nenkasong said during a weekly online briefing.
“Let me put it bluntly, we are not winning in Africa this battle against the virus so it does not really matter to me whether the vaccines are from COVAX or anywhere. All we need is rapid access to vaccines.”
Nkenkasong said at least 20 countries were in the middle of the third wave, with Zambia, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo among those whose health facilities were being overwhelmed.
The COVAX program’s initial lofty ambitions to act as a clearing house for the world’s vaccines, collecting from the manufacturers in the most developed countries and quickly distributing to those in the most urgent need, have fallen flat.
About 1.12 percent people have been fully vaccinated on a continent that has recorded 5.2 million infections, Nkenkasong said.
More than half of poorer countries receiving doses via COVAX do not have enough supplies to continue, an official from the WHO said on Monday.


Thai pro-democracy activists march against government

Thai pro-democracy activists march against government
Updated 24 June 2021

Thai pro-democracy activists march against government

Thai pro-democracy activists march against government
  • The protesters defied a ban on large gatherings instituted to fight a coronavirus surge that shows little sign of abating
  • Several hundred marched to Parliament, which is due to vote on several amendments to the constitution

BANGKOK: Pro-democracy protesters took to the streets of Thailand’s capital on Thursday, marking the anniversary of the overthrow of the country’s absolute monarchy by renewing their demands that the government step down, the constitution be amended and the monarchy become more accountable.
The protesters defied a ban on large gatherings instituted to fight a coronavirus surge that shows little sign of abating. It was their first large protest after a hiatus of about three months caused by the pandemic and the jailing of protest leaders, who have since been released on bail.
The government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is facing widespread criticism that it botched pandemic recovery plans by failing to secure adequate vaccine supplies.
On June 24, 1932, a group of progressive army officers and civil servants proclaimed constitutional rule and the transition to parliamentary democracy, ending Thailand’s absolute monarchy. The anniversary in recent years has become an occasion for pro-democracy rallies.
Protesters gathered early Thursday by Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, a traditional demonstration venue, to light candles and read out the 1932 proclamation of the end of the absolute monarchy.
Several hundred then marched to Parliament, which is due to vote on several amendments to the constitution. The proposed changes, however, fall far short of those sought by the protesters, which include restoring more power to political parties and elected office holders.
“We come out today to insist on the principle that the constitution must come from the people,” said Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a protest leader also known as Pai Dao Din.
The student-led pro-democracy movement sprung up last year, largely in reaction to the continuing influence of the military in government and hyper-royalist sentiment. The army in 2014 overthrew an elected government, and Prayuth, the coup leader, was named prime minister after a 2019 general election put in power a military-backed political party. Critics say the constitution enacted during military rule skewed election rules to favor the army’s proxy party.
The movement was able to attract crowds of as many as 20,000-30,000 people in Bangkok in 2020 and had followings in major cities and universities. However, a coronavirus surge late last year caused it to temporarily suspend activities and lose momentum.
The movement became controversial as its leaders focused on the monarchy in their speeches and activities. They charged that the king holds power and influence beyond that allowed under the constitution.
Since becoming king in 2016, Maha Vajiralongkorn has gained more direct control over the vast fortune of the royal palace — estimated to exceed $30 billion — as well as command of some key military units in the capital.
During the same time, memorials, statues and other symbols associated with the 1932 revolution have been removed.
The monarchy is widely considered to be an untouchable bedrock element of Thai nationalism. Defaming key royals is punishable under a lese majeste law by up to 15 years in prison per count. Many people still revere the monarchy, and the military, a major power in Thai society, considers its defense a key priority.
The government responded to the protesters’ criticism of the monarchy by charging leaders under the lese majeste law.
Parit Chiwarak, among those jailed, said Thursday the protesters are standing by their original demands but perhaps shifting their focus.
“We still demand the monarchy’s reform. But this year Prayuth must be ousted,” said Parit, who is better known by the nickname Penguin.


Ethiopian military says only combatants hit in Tigray air strike

Ethiopian military says only combatants hit in Tigray air strike
Updated 24 June 2021

Ethiopian military says only combatants hit in Tigray air strike

Ethiopian military says only combatants hit in Tigray air strike
  • An air strike killed at least 43 people in the town on Tuesday, a medical official told Reuters

ADDIS ABABA: Only combatants, not civilians, were struck in an air strike this week in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the country’s military spokesman said on Thursday.
Col. Getnet Adane told Reuters in an interview in Addis Ababa that the combatants in the town of Togoga were dressed in civilian clothes.
An air strike killed at least 43 people in the town on Tuesday, a medical official told Reuters. The strike took place after residents said new fighting had flared in recent days north of the regional capital Mekelle.
A resident of the town told Reuters on Wednesday that the air strike a day earlier had hit a market in the town west of Mekelle at around 1 p.m. That resident also said that her 2-year-old daughter had been injured in the attack.
The military spokesman said the combatants were not inside the market, but had gathered in the town to commemorate the anniversary of the bombing of another town in Tigray, Hawzen, in 1988. That attack, by Ethiopia’s then-ruling Communist leaders, killed hundreds of people and is widely commemorated in Tigray.
The spokesman said he did not have the death toll from the strike but that it would come soon.
The military has been battling forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former ruling party, since November. Fighting has displaced 2 million people, and the United Nations has warned of a possible famine.
Asked about children injured in Tuesday’s attack, the spokesman said the TPLF uses propaganda and is known for faking injuries. He also said that doctors quoted by the media are not “real doctors.”
The remarks were the first acknowledgement by the military of the air strike, which came after residents said new fighting had flared in recent days north of Tigray’s regional capital Mekelle.
Previously, Getnet, the military spokesman, had declined to confirm or deny the incident, saying air strikes were a common military tactic and that government forces do not target civilians.
The air strike took place as Ethiopian officials counted ballots from national and regional parliamentary elections held this week in seven of the nation’s 10 regions.
No voting was held in Tigray, and security concerns and problems with ballot papers also delayed voting in two other regions.


EU must seek ‘direct contact’ with Putin: Merkel

EU must seek ‘direct contact’ with Putin: Merkel
Updated 24 June 2021

EU must seek ‘direct contact’ with Putin: Merkel

EU must seek ‘direct contact’ with Putin: Merkel
  • A series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions have led to tensions

BERLIN: The European Union should seek direct talks with President Vladimir Putin even as it stands together against “provocations” from Russia, said Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.
“In my opinion, we as the European Union must also seek direct contact with Russia and the Russian president,” she told parliament.
“It is not enough for the American president to talk to the Russian president,” she said, stressing that the European Union too “must also create different formats for talks.”
Putin and US President Joe Biden held face-to-face talks last week, in a meeting that both said could lead to a more predictable, albeit still tense, relationship.
Merkel said recent events had shown that it was not enough “if we react to the multitude of Russian provocations in an uncoordinated manner.”
Rather, the 27-member bloc should put up “a united front against the provocations.”
Moscow is at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.
In a latest case adding to tensions, Germany arrested a Russian scientist working at a German university, accusing him of spying for Moscow.
The ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who received treatment in Berlin after a near-fatal poisoning, has also sparked outrage in the EU.


Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official
Updated 24 June 2021

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official

Canada: Decision to down Ukraine flight PS752 was made by senior Iranian official
  • The Canadian forensic report stated that Iran ignored some risks, which led to the accident
  • The report also added that the Islamic Republic failed to provide sufficient explanations

DUBAI: Canada’s final report on the downing of the Ukrainian plane said the decision was made by a senior Iranian official, Al-Arabiya TV reported.
The Canadian forensic report stated that Iran ignored some risks, which led to the fatal accident on Jan. 8, 2020.
The report also added that the Islamic Republic failed to provide sufficient explanations for the downing of the plane, which killed all 176 people on board.
Earlier in June, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said they refused Iran’s proposal to pay $150,000 as compensation for each victim of the PS752 plane victims.
Oleg Nikolenko said compensation to families was an important step to justice, but first the full truth behind the circumstances of the plane crash were needed.
“Only then can we talk about the compensation. The specific amount should be set with the agreement of all the governments of the states whose citizens died in the plane crash, and [should] not [be] a unilateral decision,” one of the country’s biggest TV news channels TSN quoted him.