At least 9 killed in Pakistan Ramadan donation stampede

At least 9 killed in Pakistan Ramadan donation stampede
Police officers and members of media gather at the site of stampede, in Karachi, Pakistan on Mar. 31, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 31 March 2023
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At least 9 killed in Pakistan Ramadan donation stampede

At least 9 killed in Pakistan Ramadan donation stampede
  • Fida Janwari, a senior police officer, said the stampede happened when needy women with children flocked to a factory distributing alms
  • The bodies of six women and three children were brought to the Abbasi Shaheed state hospital

KARACHI: At least nine people were killed in a crowd crush in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi Friday as a Ramadan alms donation sparked a stampede in the inflation-hit nation, officials said.
Pakistan has been wracked by economic turmoil for months, with the rupee crumbling and staple food prices shooting up nearly 50 percent as the country battles a balance of payments crisis which has forced it into bail-out talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Fida Janwari, a senior police officer in western Karachi’s Baldia Town neighborhood, said the stampede happened when needy women with children flocked to a factory distributing alms.
“Panic struck and people started running,” he told AFP.
The bodies of six women and three children were brought to the Abbasi Shaheed state hospital, spokesman Muhammad Farraukh said.
An official for the Rescue NGO told AFP an additional two bodies were sent to another hospital in the city.
Asma Ahmed, 30, said her grandmother and niece were among the dead.
“We come every year to the factory for the Zakat,” she said, using the Islamic term for alms.
“They started beating the women with clubs and pushing them,” Ahmed added. “There was chaos everywhere.”
“Why did they call us if they couldn’t manage it?” she asked.
Janwari said three factory employees were arrested after failing to inform police of the donation event in order to organize crowd control.
Last week, on the first day of Ramadan — when Muslims traditionally make donations to the poor — one person was killed and eight others injured in a stampede for flour in northwestern Pakistan.
Pakistan’s finances have been hobbled by decades of financial mismanagement and political chaos. The situation has been exacerbated by the global energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and crippling monsoon floods last year which submerged a third of the country.
The South Asian nation — home to 220 million — is deep in debt and must enact tough tax reforms and push up utility prices if it hopes to unlock another tranche of a $6.5 billion IMF bail-out and avoid defaulting.


Conservative Muslim Forum seeks UK govt talks over Islamophobia scandal

Conservative Muslim Forum seeks UK govt talks over Islamophobia scandal
Updated 13 sec ago
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Conservative Muslim Forum seeks UK govt talks over Islamophobia scandal

Conservative Muslim Forum seeks UK govt talks over Islamophobia scandal
  • CMF deputy chair: ‘Is the party racist or Islamophobic? I would say no, from my heart. Individuals? Yes’
  • PM fails to call comments by ex-deputy party chair, ex-home secretary Islamophobic 

LONDON: The Conservative Muslim Forum has said it is seeking to meet with senior government figures as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his party continue to battle ongoing allegations of Islamophobia.

It comes after the party’s former deputy party chair, Lee Anderson, was suspended by the Conservatives for remarks about Mayor of London Sadiq Khan last week, and an article by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman for the Daily Telegraph claimed that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge” of the UK.

Anderson refused to apologize for his claim that Islamists had “got control” of Khan and London.

Naveed Asghar, deputy chair of the CMF, told The Guardian: “Is the party racist or Islamophobic? I would say no, from my heart. Individuals? Yes. Are these people pandering to the vote base in their seats? I can’t see what’s going on.

“If he (Anderson) is doubling down on the comments, then the party should absolutely be having a word with him. I was hoping that the suspension would be enough.

“Any inflammatory remarks are just not acceptable, whether it’s people on the left making antisemitic comments or people on the right making anti-Muslim comments.”

On a visit to East Yorkshire on Monday, Sunak refused condemn Braverman’s article, saying: “I think that those comments were not about an individual in particular.”

He also stopped short of calling Anderson’s comments Islamophobic, saying: “I’ve been very clear that what he said was wrong, it was unacceptable, and that’s why we suspended (him).

“It’s important that everybody, but particularly elected politicians, are careful with their words and do not inflame tensions.”


Hungary’s parliament ratifies Sweden’s NATO accession, clearing the final obstacle to membership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session.
Updated 26 February 2024
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Hungary’s parliament ratifies Sweden’s NATO accession, clearing the final obstacle to membership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session.
  • Hungary is the last of the alliance’s 31 members to give its backing since Turkiye ratified the request last month
  • Vote on Monday removed final membership hurdle for Sweden which first applied to join alliance in May 2022

BUDAPEST: Hungary’s parliament voted Monday to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO, bringing an end to more than 18 months of delays that have frustrated the alliance as it seeks to expand in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The vote, which passed with 188 votes for and six against, came as a culmination of months of wrangling by Hungary’s allies to convince its nationalist government to lift its block on Sweden’s membership. The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán submitted the protocols for approving Sweden’s entry into NATO in July 2022, but the matter had stalled in parliament over opposition by governing party lawmakers.
Unanimous support among all NATO members is required to admit new countries, and Hungary is the last of the alliance’s 31 members to give its backing since Turkiye ratified the request last month.
Orbán, a right-wing populist who has forged close ties with Russia, has said that criticism of Hungary’s democracy by Swedish politicians had soured relations between the two countries and led to reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party.
But the vote on Monday removed the final membership hurdle for Sweden which, along with neighboring Finland, first applied to join the alliance in May 2022.
Addressing lawmakers before the vote, Orbán said: “Sweden and Hungary’s military cooperation and Sweden’s NATO accession strengthen Hungary’s security.”
Orbán criticized Hungary’s European Union and NATO allies for placing increased pressure on his government in recent months to move forward on bringing Sweden into the alliance.
“Several people tried to intervene from the outside in the settling of our disputes (with Sweden), but this did not help but rather hampered the issue,” Orbán said. “Hungary is a sovereign country, it does not tolerate being dictated by others, whether it be the content of its decisions or their timing.”
Last weekend, a bipartisan group of US senators visited Hungary and announced it would submit a joint resolution to Congress condemning Hungary’s alleged democratic backsliding and urging Orbán’s government to immediately lift its block on Sweden’s trans-Atlantic integration.
But on Friday, Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s prime minister, met with Orbán in Hungary’s capital where they appeared to reach a decisive reconciliation after months of diplomatic tensions.
Following their meeting, the leaders announced the conclusion of a defense industry agreement that will include Hungary’s purchase of four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jets and the extension of a service contract for its existing Gripen fleet.
Orbán said the additional fighter jets “will significantly increase our military capabilities and further strengthen our role abroad” and will improve Hungary’s ability to participate in joint NATO operations.
“To be a member of NATO together with another country means we are ready to die for each other,” Orbán said. “A deal on defense and military capacities helps to reconstruct the trust between the two countries.”
Monday’s vote on Sweden’s NATO accession was just one matter on a busy agenda for lawmakers in the Hungarian parliament. A vote was also held on accepting the resignation of President Katalin Novák, who stepped down earlier this month in a scandal over her decision to pardon to a man convicted of covering up a string of child sexual abuses.
After accepting Novák’s resignation, lawmakers are expected to confirm Tamás Sulyok, the president of Hungary’s Constitutional Court, as the country’s new president. He is set to formally take office on March 5.
Some opposition parties have said they will not participate in a vote to confirm a new president and have called for direct presidential elections. But Sulyok was nominated by Orbán’s Fidesz party, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament and is expected to easily approve his presidency.
A presidential signature is needed to formally endorse the approval of Sweden’s NATO bid, which is expected within the next few days.


Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine

Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine
Updated 26 February 2024
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Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine

Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine
  • Israel’s ‘systematic misinformation campaigns’ aim to ‘cover its brutality and genocidal massacres’ in Gaza, OIC says
  • At least 88 journalists have been killed in Palestine since Israel’s onslaught on Gaza began in October 

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s state minister for information has proposed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation create a collaborative digital platform to combat Israel’s disinformation campaign against Palestine, as the Muslim grouping launches new plans to expose Tel Aviv’s war crimes. 

Information ministers of OIC member countries were in Turkiye over the weekend for an extraordinary session discussing Israel’s disinformation campaign and attacks on journalists in Gaza, where nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since October. 

State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mohammed Ali Arafat said Israel’s “despicable disinformation campaign” is an attempt to cover its blatant war crimes in Gaza, including the indiscriminate targeting of babies and children, as well as journalists and humanitarian workers. 

“The world has hardly seen the continued killing of journalists and the spreading of disinformation as is happening in Gaza. I believe fighting to contain and combat against such dissemination of misinformation needs collective effort,” Arafat told the participants. 

At least 88 journalists and media workers were among the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in over four months since Israel began its onslaught on Gaza, according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists. 

“We need to create a collaborative digital platform to combat the spreading of such disinformation against Palestine. I request the OIC Secretariat to prepare a plan in this regard immediately,” Arafat said. 

Bangladesh is ready to support the OIC in establishing an information pool documenting Israeli war crimes that can be regularly shared with its member states, he added. 

“Muslim Ummah must work together to stop this massacre and let the world know the truth. Bangladesh supports and stands firm by our Palestinian brothers and sisters in this dire situation.” 

In a final communique, OIC information ministers condemned Israel’s “systematic misinformation campaigns” to “cover its brutality and genocidal massacres committed in the Gaza Strip.”

The 57-member organization also condemned Israel’s “systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists,” describing it as part of a campaign to “silence the voices of truth-tellers.” 

The OIC said they are determined to collectively “counter and expose attempts by the Israel colonial occupation to cover up the destruction” in the besieged enclave, as they mandate the group’s media monitoring unit to establish an action plan to “lay bare and counter” the Israeli disinformation campaign at the international level. 


US airman sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy in Washington

Police are deployed outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.
Police are deployed outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.
Updated 26 February 2024
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US airman sets himself on fire outside Israeli embassy in Washington

Police are deployed outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.
  • The man had filmed himself shouting “Free Palestine” as he lit himself on fire, according to footage shared on social media
  • In the video, the man is seen wearing military fatigues and declaring he will “not be complicit in genocide” before dousing himself in liquid

WASHINGTON: An active member of the US Air Force has died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington over the weekend in protest of the war in Gaza, the Pentagon said Monday.
Emergency responders on Sunday had rushed to the scene just before 1:00 p.m. (1800 GMT) in response to a “call for person on fire outside the Israeli Embassy,” according to a message on X, formerly Twitter, by the capital city’s fire department.
They arrived to find that officers from the Secret Service — the US law enforcement agency tasked with protecting embassies in Washington — had already extinguished the fire.
The man had filmed himself shouting “Free Palestine” as he lit himself on fire, according to footage shared on social media.
He was initially transported to hospital with “critical life-threatening injuries,” the fire department said.
An Air Force spokeswoman told AFP Monday morning that the unnamed “individual involved in yesterday’s incident succumbed to his injuries and passed away last night.”
“We will provide additional details 24 hours after next-of-kin notifications are complete.”
A spokesperson for the Israeli embassy said no staff were injured in the incident, and that the man was “unknown” to them.
In the video shared on social media, the man is seen wearing military fatigues and declaring he will “not be complicit in genocide” before dousing himself in liquid.
He then lights himself on fire while yelling “Free Palestine!” until he falls on the ground.
The video was reportedly first shared in a livestream on the social platform Twitch.
The shocking act came as protests are increasing across the United States against Israel’s actions in Gaza, where it is waging a retaliatory war for an attack on October 7 by Hamas militants.
With the death toll in Gaza nearing 30,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there, international pressure has been increasing on the United States to rein in its ally Israel and call for a ceasefire.


Russia seeks to imprison veteran rights advocate for nearly 3 years over Ukraine war criticism

Russia seeks to imprison veteran rights advocate for nearly 3 years over Ukraine war criticism
Updated 26 February 2024
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Russia seeks to imprison veteran rights advocate for nearly 3 years over Ukraine war criticism

Russia seeks to imprison veteran rights advocate for nearly 3 years over Ukraine war criticism
  • The prosecution demanded that Oleg Orlov, 70, be convicted of “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian army

The Russian authorities on Monday sought a prison sentence of nearly three years for a veteran human rights advocate who spoke out against the war in Ukraine.
The prosecution demanded that Oleg Orlov, 70, be convicted of “repeatedly discrediting” the Russian army and sentenced to two years and 11 months in prison, in a retrial after he was earlier ordered to pay a fine. In a move that underscored how little tolerance President Vladimir Putin’s government has for criticism of its invasion of Ukraine, the prosecution appealed the fine, seeking a harsher punishment.
The charges against Orlov, co-chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights group Memorial, came after he posted on Facebook an article he wrote denouncing the invasion of Ukraine. He has rejected the case against him as politically motivated.
A court in Moscow in October 2023 delivered a guilty verdict and fined Orlov 150,000 rubles (about $1,500 at the time), a significantly milder punishment compared to the lengthy prison terms some other Russians have received for criticizing the war.
Both the defense and the prosecution appealed the verdict, and a higher court voided the fine and sent the case back to the prosecutors. A new trial began earlier this month, another step in a yearslong, unrelenting crackdown on dissent in Russia that the Kremlin ratcheted up after sending troops into Ukraine in February 2022.
The hearing on Monday drew over 100 supporters and more than a dozen Western diplomats, Russian independent news site Mediazona reported. Orlov brought a book to the hearing — “The Trial” by Franz Kafka — reflecting his view of the trial as absurd. At a hearing on Thursday, Orlov read the novel and refused to engage in the proceedings.