Biden defeats Trump for White House, says ‘time to heal’

Biden defeats Trump for White House, says ‘time to heal’
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From left, Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Harris, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage together on Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Biden defeats Trump for White House, says ‘time to heal’
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Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife Jill wave to the crowd after speaking at his election rally, after the news media announced that Biden has won the 2020 U.S. presidential election over President Donald Trump, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 7, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
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Updated 08 November 2020

Biden defeats Trump for White House, says ‘time to heal’

Biden defeats Trump for White House, says ‘time to heal’
  • President-elect vows "to make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home”
  • Kamala Harris makes history as the first Black woman to become vice president

WASHINGTON: Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, positioning himself to be a leader who “seeks not to divide, but to unify” a nation gripped by a historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.
“I sought this office to restore the soul of America,” said Biden in a prime-time victory speech not far from his Delaware home, “and to make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.”
His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed processing. Biden crossed the winning threshold of 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania.
Trump refused to concede, threatening further legal action on ballot counting.
Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.

Biden’s victory was a repudiation of Trump’s divisive leadership and the president-elect now inherits a deeply polarized nation grappling with foundational questions of racial justice and economic fairness while in the grips of a virus that has killed more than 236,000 Americans and reshaped the norms of everyday life.
Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the US faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
Harris introduced Biden “as a president for all Americans” who would look to bridge a nation riven with partisanship and nodded to the historic nature of her ascension to the vice presidency.
“Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before,” Harris said. “You chose hope and unity, decency, science and, yes, truth ... you ushered in a new day for America.”
Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.
Nonetheless, Trump was not giving up.
Departing from longstanding democratic tradition and signaling a potentially turbulent transfer of power, he issued a combative statement saying his campaign would take unspecified legal actions. And he followed up with a bombastic, all-caps tweet in which he falsely declared, “I WON THE ELECTION, GOT 71,000,000 LEGAL VOTES.” Twitter immediately flagged it as misleading.

Trump has pointed to delays in processing the vote in some states to allege with no evidence that there was fraud and to argue that his rival was trying to seize power — an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
He was golfing at his Virginia country club when he lost the race. He stayed out for hours, stopping to congratulate a bride as he left, and his motorcade returned to the White House to a cacophony of shouts, taunts and unfriendly hand gestures.
In Wilmington, Delaware, near the stage that, until Saturday night, had stood empty since it was erected to celebrate on Election Night, people cheered and pumped their fists as the news that the presidential race had been called for the state’s former senator arrived on their cellphones.
On the nearby water, two men in a kayak yelled to a couple paddling by in the opposite direction, “Joe won! They called it!” as people on the shore whooped and hollered. Harris, in workout gear, was shown on video speaking to Biden on the phone, exuberantly telling the president-elect “We did it!” Biden was expected to take the stage for a drive-in rally after dark.
Across the country, there were parties and prayer. In New York City, spontaneous block parties broke out. People ran out of their buildings, banging on pots. They danced and high-fived with strangers amid honking horns. Among the loudest cheers were those for passing US Postal Service trucks.

People streamed into Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House, near where Trump had ordered the clearing of protesters in June, waving signs and taking cellphone pictures. In Lansing, Michigan, Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter demonstrators filled the Capitol steps. The lyrics to “Amazing Grace” began to echo through the crowd, and Trump supporters laid their hands on a counter protester, and prayed.
Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long lines at polling locations during a pandemic. With counting continuing in some states, Biden had already received more than 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.
Trump’s refusal to concede has no legal implications. But it could add to the incoming administration’s challenge of bringing the country together after a bitter election.
Throughout the campaign, Trump repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, arguing without evidence that the election could be marred by fraud. The nation has a long history of presidential candidates peacefully accepting the outcome of elections, dating back to 1800, when John Adams conceded to his rival Thomas Jefferson.
It was Biden’s native Pennsylvania that put him over the top, the state he invoked throughout the campaign to connect with working class voters. He also won Nevada on Saturday pushing his total to 290 Electoral College votes.
Biden received congratulations from dozens of world leaders, and his former boss, President Barack Obama, saluted him in a statement, declaring the nation was “fortunate that Joe’s got what it takes to be President and already carries himself that way.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill were giving Trump and his campaign space to consider all their legal options. It was a precarious balance for Trump’s allies as they try to be supportive of the president — and avoid risking further fallout — but face the reality of the vote count.
On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had not yet made any public statements — either congratulating Biden or joining Trump’s complaints. But retiring GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is close to McConnell, said, “After counting every valid vote and allowing courts to resolve disputes, it is important to respect and promptly accept the result.”
More than 236,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Biden.
The pandemic will soon be Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D. Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on such Biden ambition.
The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has shuttered schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.
The fast spread of the coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies. It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions. The president defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself.
Trump was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic. There was another COVID-19 outbreak in the White House this week, which sickened his chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Biden also drew a sharp contrast to Trump through a summer of unrest over the police killings of Black Americans including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their deaths sparked the largest racial protest movement since the civil rights era. Biden responded by acknowledging the racism that pervades American life, while Trump emphasized his support of police and pivoted to a “law and order” message that resonated with his largely white base.

The third president to be impeached, though acquitted in the Senate, Trump will leave office having left an indelible imprint in a tenure defined by the shattering of White House norms and a day-to-day whirlwind of turnover, partisan divide and Twitter blasts.
Trump’s team has filed a smattering of lawsuits in battleground states, some of which were immediately rebuffed by judges. His personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was holding a news conference in Philadelphia threatening more legal action when the race was called.
Biden, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware, was one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the Senate. Before he took office, his wife and daughter were killed, and his two sons badly injured in a 1972 car crash.
Commuting every night on a train from Washington back to Wilmington, Biden fashioned an everyman political persona to go along with powerful Senate positions, including chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Some aspects of his record drew critical scrutiny from fellow Democrats, including his support for the 1994 crime bill, his vote for the 2003 Iraq War and his management of the Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings.
Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was done in by plagiarism allegations, and his next bid in 2008 ended quietly. But later that year, he was tapped to be Barack Obama’s running mate and he became an influential vice president, steering the administration’s outreach to both Capitol Hill and Iraq.
While his reputation was burnished by his time in office and his deep friendship with Obama, Biden stood aside for Clinton and opted not to run in 2016 after his adult son Beau died of brain cancer the year before.
Trump’s tenure pushed Biden to make one more run as he declared that “the very soul of the nation is at stake.”

 


US on alert as jury deliberates in trial of Derek Chauvin

US on alert as jury deliberates in trial of Derek Chauvin
Updated 20 April 2021

US on alert as jury deliberates in trial of Derek Chauvin

US on alert as jury deliberates in trial of Derek Chauvin
  • Chauvin, a White Minneapolis police officer, is accused of killing African American George Floyd while restraining him
  • There are fears that Arab American businesses could be targeted if the verdict triggers violent protests

CHICAGO: Police in cities across America were on alert Monday night as a jury began its deliberations in the trial of White Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of causing the death of African American George Floyd while he was restraining him.
Floyd, 46, died on May 25 last year after Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes to hold him down. Floyd’s death sparked widespread protests across the US by members of the Black Lives Matter movement, some of which turned violent.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The jury could convict him on a murder charge or they could find him innocent. Many believe a verdict of innocence could spark more violent demonstrations.
During the protests last year, which raged for more than two months, some people looted, damaged and even burnt down businesses, not only in Minneapolis but across the country. Several dozen people died in the violence and hundreds were injured.
Arab American stores in particular were targeted and looted because Floyd was arrested in front of one, called Cup Foods, owned by Mahmoud Abumayyaleh. An employee at the store had called police to report Floyd for trying, for a second time, to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
In Chicago, for example, more than a dozen stores owned by Arab Americans or Muslims were looted. Two of them were burnt down.
Hassan Nijem, president of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce of Chicagoland said he hopes that protesters will not resort to violence if the jury returns a not guilty verdict against Chauvin.
“Last summer more than a dozen Arab American businesses were among the hundreds of businesses in Chicagoland that were damaged and looted by some of the protesters,” he said.
“This happened across the country, with many Arab American businesses being targeted by rage and anger. The protesters have a right to protest, whatever the jury decision, but we urge them not to damage any businesses and not to target Arab or Muslim businesses.”
Tensions are running high and were further inflamed by California Congresswoman Maxine Waters on Saturday. During an appearance at a Black Lives Matter rally at the Brooklyn Center in Minnesota she told the crowd: “Well, we’ve got to stay on the street. And we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”
Minneapolis Judge Peter Cahill, who is presiding over the Chauvin trial, described public comments about the case by elected officials, such as the congresswoman’s, as “abhorrent” but refused to grant a motion for a mistrial, which had been requested by Chauvin’s lawyers.
However he said: “I’ll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
Fearing violence, police in many communities across the country are on high alert to protect business districts if the verdict does not meet the expectations of activists.
Minutes after Cahill directed the jury to begin their deliberations on Monday afternoon, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker announced he was activating the Illinois National Guard. He said this was a response to a request from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to supplement the police presence.
“At the request of the City of Chicago, Gov. J. B. Pritzker is activating 125 personnel from the Illinois National Guard to stand by to support the Chicago Police Department, with a verdict expected in the trial of Derek Chauvin,” according to an official statement. The deployment will begin on Tuesday morning. The guardsmen will engage in “a limited mission to help manage street closures and will not interfere with peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Pritzker has also directed Illinois State Police to support the Chicago Police Department by providing additional troopers “to keep the community safe.”
“It is critical that those who wish to peacefully protest against the systemic racism and injustice that holds back too many of our communities continue to be able to do so,” he said. “Members of the Guard and the Illinois State Police will support the City of Chicago’s efforts to protect the rights of peaceful protesters and keep our families safe.”
Lightfoot said the request for support was critical.
“Our greatest priority at all times is ensuring the safety and security of the public,” she added. “While there is no actionable intelligence at this time, we want to be fully prepared out of an abundance of caution. Our city has a long history of peacefully expressing its First Amendment rights and I encourage residents to exercise their rights to free speech this coming week thoughtfully, respectfully and peacefully.”


Philippine hospitals fight surge in COVID-19 cases

Philippine hospitals fight surge in COVID-19 cases
Updated 20 April 2021

Philippine hospitals fight surge in COVID-19 cases

Philippine hospitals fight surge in COVID-19 cases
  • Capital region and four surrounding provinces in lockdown

MANILA: The Philippines on Monday continued to record a spike in COVID-19 infections, with officials at a state-run hospital in Quezon City comparing the crisis to a “war zone” as health facilities across the country struggled to deal with an influx of patients.

The country registered 9,628 new infections on Monday, despite the government placing its capital Metro Manila region and four surrounding provinces under one of the strictest lockdown levels in March to tackle the surge.

“It’s like a war zone now,” healthcare worker John M. told Arab News on Monday, as he described scenes at his hospital of patients on a stretcher or a folding bed and lying in the hallway.

“This has never happened before. It’s because of an influx of COVID patients. Also, we do not refuse patients that are brought to the facility,” said John, who asked for his name to be changed as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Department of Health said that Monday’s infections brought the nationwide tally to 945,745. 

It reported 88 further coronavirus fatalities, raising the death toll to 16,048, with 788,322 recoveries and 141,375 active cases.

Since the March spike, several hospitals said they had been running at full capacity for COVID-19 patients, some of whom had to wait for several days to be admitted or drive from one hospital to another to seek treatment.

The state-run Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the largest COVID-19 referral facility in the country, had “a lot” of patients on the waiting list.

“They’re already full, and we have a lot of wait-listed patients,” Dr. Joel Santiaguel, a fellow at the PGH pulmonary department, told Arab News.

Santiaguel said that, compared to last year when a patient referred to the PGH could get easily admitted, patients now needed to wait for several days or be moved to the ER in case of an emergency. “But that too takes time.”

FASTFACT

Several hospitals said they had been running at full capacity for COVID-19 patients, some of whom had to wait for several days to be admitted or drive from one hospital to another to seek treatment.

He also cited how ambulances were working overtime to rush critical patients to hospitals, with a long queue of them parked outside PGH.

Santiaguel traced the crisis back to the second or third week of March, saying the PGH was never crowded with COVID-19 patients before then. He had also heard about some patients desperately searching for bed space to get admission into the ER.

“We used to see around 20 patients per day, but starting from March until now, we are attending to 70 patients per day. There are no beds available, so patients go to at least six to eight hospitals to find space in the ER or wait at the tent of the ER (for space to open up).”

Some patients died while waiting for their turn.

John said such stories were not limited to patients, with a nurse at his facility who tested positive for coronavirus also forced to wait on a “folding bed in the hallway of the hospital for a vacant room or bed.”

The hospital where he works has two five-story buildings for COVID-19 patients, with each floor able to accommodate 50 patients.

“All the rooms are currently occupied. Earlier, we would admit one person per room. Now we are forced to take two per room.”

According to the Department of Health, the utilization rate of COVID-19 beds remains high in the Metro Manila region, with beds in 700 of its intensive care units (ICU) reporting 84 percent occupancy, while 3,800 isolation beds were at a 63 percent occupancy rate, 2,200 ward beds at 70 percent, and ventilators at 61 percent.

Meanwhile, 66 percent of 1,900 ICU beds, 49 percent of 13,600 isolation beds, 56 percent of 6,000 ward beds, and 47 percent of 2,000 ventilators are currently in use nationwide.

In his televised address to the nation last week, President Rodrigo Duterte warned of more COVID-19 deaths due to the lack of vaccine supply.

“Until now, the word is unavailable. Unavailable because there’s no sufficient supply to inoculate the world. This will take long. I tell you, many more will die because of this. I just can’t say who.”

On Monday, however, Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said the number of COVID-19 cases in a few Metro Manila cities had started to go down in recent days, partly due to the intensified implementation of the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) strategy.

He said that while there was only a slight decrease it was “still proof” that the PDTIR initiative was working. 

He added that the results of the lockdown in Manila and its surrounding provinces would be seen after three to four weeks.

In a press briefing at the weekend, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department was stepping up its efforts to expand the health system.

“The most important thing for us now is, even though numbers will rise, to have enough healthcare capacity to accommodate patients, especially those who need hospital care or who need quarantine care. We are expanding (the number of) beds, talking with our local governments to intensify our response.” 

She also expressed hope that cases would decline in the coming days and that hospitals in Metro Manila would be decongested.


New Delhi placed under lockdown as hospitals reach ‘breaking point’

New Delhi placed under lockdown as hospitals reach ‘breaking point’
Updated 20 April 2021

New Delhi placed under lockdown as hospitals reach ‘breaking point’

New Delhi placed under lockdown as hospitals reach ‘breaking point’
  • New Delhi recorded 26,000 coronavirus cases on Monday, a record jump since April 1

NEW DELHI: India’s government on Monday announced a week-long lockdown in the national capital, New Delhi, after its health system reached “breaking point” due to a scarcity of hospital beds and oxygen tanks for coronavirus patients.

On Monday, India witnessed an unprecedented spike in coronavirus infections, with 273,810 cases reported in a single day.

At least 1,620 people were killed by the virus, creating another record on Monday and bringing the country’s death toll to 178,769.

New Delhi recorded 26,000 coronavirus cases on Monday, a record jump since April 1, when daily case numbers hovered around the 1,000 mark. The city also recorded 161 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours.

New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal described the situation as “pretty critical,” adding that imposing the lockdown was “the only option left to avoid a bigger disaster.”

He said in a televised address: “Delhi’s health system is at a breaking point. I will not say it has collapsed, but the situation is pretty critical.”

Kejriwal added that the decision to impose a lockdown was “not an easy one to take.”

He said: “I have always been against a lockdown, but it will reduce the transmission rate and give us time to boost our infrastructure. We will use this week-long lockdown to improve our healthcare.”

Kejriwal acknowledged that Delhi was facing an acute shortage of hospital beds and oxygen supply, highlighting the issue in a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday while seeking help from the federal government to avert the crisis.

A majority of hospitals in Delhi reported chaotic scenes on Monday with patients desperately searching for bed space in coronavirus wards.

All of the 18,933 beds reserved for coronavirus patients were reportedly full on Monday, including 1,436 intensive care unit (ICU) beds and 2,881 ICU beds without ventilators.

However, residents are warning that existing facilities cannot accommodate the surge in infections, with several losing relatives due to a lack of oxygen supply and medical support.

“I lost my wife on Sunday because she could not get ventilator support on time,” Dr. Anwar Sadat, a Delhi resident, told Arab News.

“We never thought that such a tragedy would strike us and that our whole life would become disoriented within a matter of days. We desperately looked for beds in the hospital for her, but by the time she got ventilator support, my wife had collapsed,” Sadat said.

Besides New Delhi, the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) also posted a grim picture, with medical infrastructure in its capital city Bhopal “overstretched” amid reports of residents suffering due to a lack of medical attention.

MP has also imposed a lockdown until April 26 in several cities, including Bhopal. 

On Monday, it reported almost 12,500 coronavirus infections across the state.

However, media reports alleged that government figures do not reflect the reality on the ground in crematoriums and burial grounds.

“There was hardly any space to burn the dead bodies in the crematorium ground. We had to wait eight hours,” Santosh Mishra, who lost his uncle to coronavirus, told Arab News about the situation at the Bhadbhada crematorium in Bhopal.

Doctors, too, said they were struggling to cope with the massive influx of patients.

“The situation is grim,” Dr. Sarman Singh, director of Bhopal’s premium medical institution, the All India Institute of Medical Science, told Arab News.

“We are facing a scarcity of beds and oxygen like everywhere in the world, and the patient load is increasing,” he added.

Arab News on Sunday reported similar events in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and the western state of Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

Experts said they were unsure how long the spike in coronavirus infections would continue, but blamed ongoing regional election campaigns and an ongoing Hindu festival, the Kumbh Mela — where millions converge to sacred sites for a ritual dip in holy waters — for “adding to the existing trouble.”

Dorairaj Prabhakaran, general secretary of the Public Health Foundation of India, said: “It will take another two to three weeks before the cases peak in major cities.”

He said that imposing the lockdown was “one of the options to contain the virus,” adding: “Lockdown is an important option right now. At least a decentralized lockdown is a better option than a countrywide lockdown. This keeps the mobility going.”

However, Dr. Jayesh Lele, general secretary of the Indian Medical Association, blamed the “pathetic management” of the government for the crisis.

“Why is the government going ahead with the election campaigning and not stopping mass gatherings? It’s a pathetic management of affairs,” Lele told Arab News.

“The government should have done some preparation. Today, cities across India have collapsed. In rural areas, the situation is probably grimmer,” he added.


Pakistan faces unpleasant options amid violent protests over Prophet cartoons

Pakistan faces unpleasant options amid violent protests over Prophet cartoons
Updated 20 April 2021

Pakistan faces unpleasant options amid violent protests over Prophet cartoons

Pakistan faces unpleasant options amid violent protests over Prophet cartoons
  • In TV address, PM Imran Khan said breaking ties with France in protest against the caricatures will hurt Pakistan more
  • Religious political party TLP has demanded the expulsion of the French ambassador to Pakistan before April 20

ISLAMABAD AND KARACHI: Unrest has gripped Pakistan since April 12 when Saad Rizvi, leader of the recently outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was arrested in Lahore for threatening a campaign of civil disobedience against the government unless it expelled the French ambassador over the re-publication last year in France of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Violent protests have paralyzed major cities and highways all week, leading to the death of six police officers and injuries to more than 800, according to the government.

Photographs of police officers taken hostage by TLP supporters, with their heads, legs and arms heavily bandaged, have been posted on social media throughout the week.

On Sunday, the TLP said three of its members had been killed in clashes outside its headquarters in the eastern city of Lahore. The religious party also took several police and paramilitary troops hostage, releasing 11 officers in the early hours of Monday following negotiations with the government.

Saad Rizvi (center) leader of the recently outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), was arrested in Lahore for threatening a campaign of civil disobedience. (AFP/File)

The riots have prompted the French embassy to urge its citizens to temporarily leave the country.

Rizvi became leader of the TLP in November after the sudden death of his father, the firebrand cleric Khadim Hussein Rizvi. His party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 federal elections promising to defend the country’s blasphemy laws, which call for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam.

The party has a history of staging protests to pressure the government to accept its demands. In November 2017, Rizvi’s followers staged a 21-day sit-in after a reference to the sanctity of Prophet Muhammad was removed from the text of a government form.

Now the TLP is calling on the government to honor what it says was a commitment made in February to expel the French envoy before April 20 over the publication of the cartoons. Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, insists his government is only committed to debating the matter in parliament.

Traders in Islamabad shout anti-France slogans in a closed market during a nationwide strike to show their solidarity with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). (AFP)

On Monday, Khan said that meeting the TLP’s demands to break diplomatic ties with France would hit Pakistani exports to the EU and lead to poverty, unemployment and inflation.

“The biggest effect (of breaking ties with France) will be that after great difficulty our economy is rising, the large-scale industry is getting up after a long time, people are getting jobs, wealth is increasing in our country, our exports are rising and after a long time, our rupee is strengthening,” Khan said in a televised address to the nation.

He added that breaking ties with France would be tantamount to severing relations with the entire EU.

“Half of our textile exports go to the EU and that will be stopped, resulting in unemployment, devaluation of the rupee, increase in inflation and poverty,” Khan said.

“We will be at loss but this won’t make any difference to France.”

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said meeting the TLP’s demands to break diplomatic ties with France would hit Pakistani exports to the EU. (AFP/File)

Rather than act unilaterally, Khan said the leaders of Muslim countries should collectively take up the issue of blasphemy with UN and EU.

“We should tell the Western countries that blasphemy to our prophet in the name of freedom of speech hurts us. And if they don’t stop it, we can then collectively do the trade boycott,” he said.

Khan said this was the only way to “achieve the objective” of creating an environment in which no one would dare to disrespect the prophet, and pledged to personally lead such a global campaign to ensure this.

Khan’s address came as the government went into a third round of negotiations with the TLP.

“We believe in negotiations and it’s our policy,” Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, the federal minister for religious affairs, said in a policy statement in the National Assembly on Monday.

“No political, democratic and elected government can afford such things and whatever happened in the past few days is regrettable to everyone.”

On Sunday evening, Fawad Hussain Chaudhry, the information minister, said the government was forced to launch an armed operation against protesters after they kidnapped law enforcement officials.

“The government believes in negotiations but can’t be blackmailed,” he said. “The operation was started after police and Rangers personnel were kidnapped ... Imran Khan has the strongest affection with the prophet and he has talked about this at every (national and global) forum.”

Earlier on Sunday, police spokesperson Arif Rana said the operation against the TLP had been halted as the attackers were armed with petrol bombs and a tanker with 50,000 liters of petrol.

By Sunday evening, the situation was “at a standstill,” he said, with protesters sitting on roadsides with sticks and petrol bombs in their hands and law enforcement standing guard.

Last week, the interior ministry said it was moving to have the TLP party banned for attacking police and paramilitary troops and disrupting public life during its protests. The interior ministry’s decision has been approved by the federal cabinet but needs to be ratified by the Supreme Court for the TLP to be officially dissolved.

In October 2020, protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, over France’s response to a deadly attack on a teacher who showed his pupils cartoons mocking Prophet Muhammad during a civics lesson. French President Emmanuel Macron has defended the caricatures as freedom of expression.

During last year’s protests in Pakistan, the government negotiated with the TLP and met a number of its demands, including an agreement to hold a parliamentary debate on whether or not to expel the French ambassador.

The agreed deadline to hold that debate expires on April 20.

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Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana
Updated 19 April 2021

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana

Albanian man with knife wounds 5 at mosque in Tirana
  • Police said Albanian man, 34, wound five people with knife attack in mosque in Tirana
  • Man was arrested by police that haven’t disclosed any motive for the attack

TIRANA: An Albanian man with a knife attacked five people Monday at a mosque in the capital of Tirana, according to police.
A police statement said Rudolf Nikolli, 34, entered the Dine Hoxha mosque in downtown Tirana about 2:30 p.m. and wounded five people with a knife.
Police reacted immediately and took him into custody.
The five wounded, all men aged from 22 to 35, were taken to a hospital and police said they are not in life-threatening situations.
Police have not disclosed any motive for the attack. They and prosecutors are investigating the case.
Ahmed Kalaja, imam of the mosque, said the armed man attacked worshipers and staff, and added he hoped it was “not a terrorist attack.”
The mosque at the time was filled with believers during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Albania’s 2.8 million people are predominantly Muslim with smaller Christian Catholic and Orthodox communities that have gotten along well with each other.
Police said Nikolli was from the northern town of Burrel and his religious background was not yet clear.