Clashes erupt in ‘yellow vest’ protests as Macron prepares policy moves

1 / 4
People take part in a demonstration called by the 'Yellow Vests' (gilets jaunes) movement on the 22nd consecutive Saturday, on April 13, 2019 in Paris. (AFP)
2 / 4
A woman holds a placard reading "Some turn the sun into a yellow dot, others turn a yellow dot into a sun" during an anti-government demonstration called by the yellow vest "Gilets Jaunes" movement, on April 13, 2019, in Laval, western France. (AFP)
3 / 4
"Yellow vests" (Gilets Jaunes) protesters stand amid tear gas smoke during an an anti-government demonstration, on April 13, 2019, in Toulouse, as they take to the streets for the 22nd consecutive Saturday. (AFP)
4 / 4
A French anti-riot gendarme launches a tear gas grenade during an anti-government demonstration called by "Yellow vests" (Gilets Jaunes) protesters, on April 13, 2019, in Toulouse, as they take to the streets for the 22nd consecutive Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 13 April 2019

Clashes erupt in ‘yellow vest’ protests as Macron prepares policy moves

  • Police in Toulouse fired teargas and arrested several people after several hundred demonstrators started throwing objects and burning rubbish bins
  • Marches in Paris and elsewhere were largely peaceful by early afternoon, but the protests continue to put pressure on Macron

PARIS: “Yellow vest” demonstrators clashed with riot police in the French city of Toulouse on Saturday as President Emmanuel Macron prepares a series of policy announcements aimed at quelling 22 consecutive weekends of anti-government protests.
Police in the southeastern city fired teargas and arrested several people after several hundred demonstrators started throwing objects, burning rubbish bins and trying to enter areas where protests have been banned.
Altogether about 2,000 protesters had gathered on the Allee Jean Jaures, a wide avenue in the city center and on nearby side streets.
Activist groups had said on social media networks that Toulouse would be the focus for the 22nd round of demonstrations, prompting city mayor Jean-Claude Moudenc to express concern ahead of Saturday’s protests.
Marches in Paris and elsewhere were largely peaceful by early afternoon, but the protests continue to put pressure on Macron. He has vowed to announce a series of measures aimed at easing discontent in the country.
The protests, named after the high-visibility safety jackets worn by demonstrators, began in November to oppose fuel tax increases.
However, the movement quickly morphed into a broader backlash against Macron’s government, despite a swift reversal of the tax hikes and other hurried measures worth more than 10 billion euros to boost purchasing power for lower-income voters.
In response to rioting that made parts of Paris resemble war zones, Macron launched a two-month “grand debat,” a sweeping consultation that included a series of town hall meetings across the country.
Macron is due to introduce specific measures early next week.
Outlining the findings of the debate initiative, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said this week that it had highlighted demands including quicker tax cuts, action to address climate change and closer ties between Paris and the provinces.


No more tears: Dhaka to import onions from Pakistan to curb shortage

Updated 36 min 38 sec ago

No more tears: Dhaka to import onions from Pakistan to curb shortage

  • Despite optimism, some experts remain skeptical that the onion trade will lead to a new era of diplomatic ties

DHAKA: In a bid to mitigate an onion crisis in its local markets, Bangladesh has decided to import 300 tons of the vegetable from Pakistan after nearly 15 years, despite strained diplomatic relations between the two countries in recent years.

Relations between Islamabad and Dhaka have never recovered from the 1971 war, when Bangladeshi nationalists broke away from what was then West Pakistan. Most recently, relations have been marred by the trials of prisoners taken in Bangladesh during the war nearly five decades ago. Pakistan publicly condemned the trial process by Dhaka, which the latter considered an interference into its internal affairs.

The surprise decision to import from Pakistan was taken during a government-level discussion on Friday, when Bangladesh’s Tasho Enterprise finalized the deal with Karachi-based Roshan Enterprise, as reported by Pakistan’s The News International.

Last September, following a ban on onion exports in India, the price of onions in Bangladesh rose threefold.

Experts in Bangladesh said the rise of trade relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh, especially with the new “onion diplomacy” could prove to have some positive impact over diplomatic relations between Dhaka and Islamabad. 

“With this onion diplomacy, there is the chance of expanding trade relations between the countries,” Dr. Delwar Hossain of Dhaka University told Arab News, adding: “It will definitely have a good impact on diplomatic relations but I would not say it will create a new era of their relationship overnight.

“As a whole, if Bangladesh reviews its foreign policy in a pragmatic context, the latest onion import trading may take a positive turn in terms of diplomatic relations,” Hossain said.

Last year, Dhaka did not approve the appointment of a new Pakistan high commissioner in Bangladesh.

Islamabad has been waiting for the appointment’s approval for over a year, though it is expected to come soon, sources inside Pakistan’s Dhaka mission said.

Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Humayun Kabir told Arab News that the onion trade could open up a window for better diplomatic relations if the political leadership of both countries wanted it to, but that it was still too early to consider it a diplomatic win.

“Bangladesh needs onions and so we are importing them from Pakistan. But at this moment, there is not enough scope to attach it with diplomacy,” Kabir said. 

Dr. Shammi Ahmed, international affairs relations secretary of the ruling Awami League party, told Arab News that Bangladesh already had diplomatic relations with Pakistan but conceded there were problems between the two countries.  

“Importing onions from Pakistan is a government level decision. Bangladesh’s foreign policy also upholds the spirit of friendship with all nations,” he said, and added that the bilateral relationship could move in a “positive direction” in the days to come.

According to State Bank of Pakistan, Pakistan’s exports and imports with Bangladesh during 2018 were $782 million and $67 million respectively.

But Mohammad Zamir, a former career diplomat, said there was little scope for politicizing the onion import, which was merely a necessity for Bangladesh.

“We have bilateral relations with Pakistan and have also imported many goods from the country in previous years. Currently, we are in need of onions and Bangladesh is also importing them from some other countries, like Myanmar, Egypt and Turkey for its national interest,” Zamir told Arab News. 

According to Muhammad Aurongzeb Haral, press councillor of Pakistan’s High Commission in Dhaka, trade was already showing a rising trend with signs of a new and “positive” attitude towards Pakistan in Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry.

Total bilateral trade figures for 2018 reached $850 million compared to $681 million for 2017, Haral said.

“Pakistan has been contributing to Bangladesh’s export industry and hence its economy by providing textile raw material to the country, and contributing to the ready-made garment industry exports of Bangladesh,” he continued.

“There is huge potential for further boosting of trade between the two countries.”