Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan indicted in leaked documents case

Update Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan indicted in leaked documents case
Lawyers for Khan say the case carries a maximum jail term of 14 years (AFP)
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Updated 23 October 2023

Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan indicted in leaked documents case

Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan indicted in leaked documents case
  • The case relates to a cable that Khan had touted as proof that he was ousted as part of a US conspiracy backed by the powerful military establishment

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: Jailed former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was on Monday charged with leaking classified documents, a prosecutor said, a charge that carries a prison term of up to 14 years.

Since being ousted from power last year, Khan has been tangled in a slew of legal cases he says are designed to stop him from contesting upcoming elections in January 2024.

The populist politician was jailed in August for three years over graft but when his sentence was overturned, he was instead kept in custody on the far more serious charge of sharing state documents.

“He has been indicted today and the charge was openly read out,” Shah Khawar of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said outside Adiala Jail, where Khan is being held.

The case relates to a cable that Khan touted as proof that he was ousted as part of a US conspiracy backed by the powerful military establishment, according to a report by the FIA.

The United States and Pakistan’s military have denied the claim.

The vice-chairman of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a former foreign minister, has also been indicted over the case.

A PTI spokesman said both men were charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act in a trial “conducted within the court premises with no access to public or media.”

“We are going to challenge it,” Khan’s lawyer Umar Khan Niazi told reporters.

Khan’s lawyers say the crime he has been charged with carries a possible 14-year prison term, and in the most extreme circumstances, the death penalty.

Former cricketing superstar Khan enjoys enormous support in Pakistan, but his campaign of defiance against the powerful military establishment, which spread through the nation after his ouster, has met with a fierce backlash.

Pakistan’s military has directly ruled the country for roughly half of its 76-year history, and continues to exercise enormous power.

A sweeping anti-Khan crackdown saw thousands of his supporters rounded up and almost the entire senior party leadership forced underground. Many later abandoned the PTI, denouncing Khan’s tirades against the military.

“He is facing legal matters but the intent of the regime is quite clear — that they don’t want to leave any corner for his escape, regardless of whether the charges are real or fabricated,” political analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais said.

Pakistan is currently led by an interim government, with polls already pushed back several months to January 2024.

Khan’s primary opponent, three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, returned to Pakistan on Saturday, ending four years of self-imposed exile.

Sharif was jailed for graft and barred from contesting the 2018 elections — in which Khan swept to power — but he left mid-way through his sentence to receive medical care in the United Kingdom, ignoring court orders to return.

Prior to his coming back, a court granted Sharif a fresh protective bail to pave the way for him to arrive in his political heartland of Lahore on the weekend.

The fortunes of Pakistan’s leaders rise and fall on their relationship with the military and Pakistan’s courts are often used to tie up lawmakers in lengthy proceedings that rights monitors criticize for stifling dissent.

CrowdStrike: cybersecurity giant behind global outage

CrowdStrike: cybersecurity giant behind global outage
Updated 19 July 2024

CrowdStrike: cybersecurity giant behind global outage

CrowdStrike: cybersecurity giant behind global outage
  • The company’s share price was down by about 12 percent on Wall Street on Friday

WASHINGTON: CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity company behind a massive global IT outage, is the leader in its sector, known for building software defenses for the cloud computing age and exposing Russian and North Korean threats.
Based in Austin, Texas, the company was founded in 2011 by George Kurtz, Dmitri Alperovitch and Gregg Marston.
Both Kurtz and Alperovitch had extensive backgrounds in cybersecurity, working at companies like McAfee.
Two years after its founding, CrowdStrike launched its signature product, the Falcon platform.
Crucially, the company embraced a “cloud-first” model to reduce big computing needs on customers and provide more effective protection.
In particular, remote computing enables updates to be carried out quickly and regularly, something that failed spectacularly in Friday’s outage when an update proved incompatible with computers running on Microsoft software.
Rather than just focusing on malware and antivirus products, the founders wanted to shift attention to identifying and stopping the attackers themselves and their techniques.
“CrowdStrike is one of the best-known cybersecurity companies around,” said Michael Daniel, who worked as the White House cybersecurity coordinator during the Barack Obama administration.
“It provides typically what we think of as sort of endpoint protection, meaning that it’s actually got software running on a server, or on a particular device, like a laptop or a desktop, and it’s scanning for potential malware connections to bad domain names,” he said.
“It’s looking for behavior that might be unusual — that sort of thing,” said Daniel, who now runs the Cyber Threat Alliance.
A report published this year by CrowdStrike estimates that 70 percent of attacks do not include viruses, but were rather manipulations carried out directly by hackers, who often use stolen or recovered credentials.
The company’s share price was down by about 12 percent on Wall Street on Friday.
CrowdStrike became a publicly traded company in 2019, and in 2023 the group generated sales of $3.05 billion, up 36 percent year-on-year.
Boosted by the wave of so-called generative AI, which requires the development of additional capabilities in the cloud, CrowdStrike raised its annual forecasts in June.
Although its business has been booming, the group is still struggling with profitability.
In 2023, it recorded a net profit of just $89 million, its first annual profit since its creation.
The company’s main competitors are Palo Alto Networks and SentinelOne, both standalone cybersecurity firms.
But cloud computing giants Microsoft, Amazon and Google provide their own cybersecurity software and are also rivals.
CrowdStrike, which is also a cyber intelligence company, made headlines when it helped investigate several high-profile cyberattacks.
Most famously, in 2014, CrowdStrike discovered evidence linking North Korean actors to the hacking of servers at Sony Pictures.
The hackers stole large amounts of data and threatened terrorist acts against movie theaters to prevent the release of “The Interview,” a comedy about North Korea’s leader.
The studio initially canceled the movie’s theatrical release, but reversed its decision after criticism.
Sony estimated the direct costs of the hack to be $35 million for investigating and remediating the breach.
CrowdStrike also helped investigate the 2015-2016 cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the United States and their connection to Russian intelligence services.
In December 2016, CrowdStrike released a report stating that a Russian government-affiliated group called Fancy Bear had hacked a Ukrainian artillery app, potentially causing significant losses to Ukrainian artillery units in their fight against Moscow-backed separatists.
However, this assessment was later disputed by some organizations and CrowdStrike rolled back some of the claims.
In recent months, CrowdStrike has criticized Microsoft for its lapses on cybersecurity as the Windows maker admitted to vulnerabilities and hackings by outside actors.
Among other criticisms, CrowdStrike slammed Microsoft for still doing business in China.
“You’re telling the public they can’t use Huawei, and they can’t let kids watch dance videos on TikTok because China is going to collect intelligence,” Shawn Henry, chief security officer at CrowdStrike, said last year.
“Yet, the most ubiquitous software, which is used throughout the government and throughout every single corporation in this country and around the world, has engineers in China working on their software,” Henry told Forbes.

Exhausted migrants arrive on beach in Spain’s Canaries

Exhausted migrants arrive on beach in Spain’s Canaries
Updated 19 July 2024

Exhausted migrants arrive on beach in Spain’s Canaries

Exhausted migrants arrive on beach in Spain’s Canaries
  • After reaching the beach lined with hotels, many migrants lay on the sand, looking frail and exhausted

MADRID: Dozens of exhausted migrants arrived in a wooden boat on a beach in Spain’s Canary Islands early on Friday amid a sharp rise in perilous crossings from Africa, with emergency personnel and a few stunned beachgoers rushing to help.
The boat carrying 64 people made it to the Las Burras beach on the island of Gran Canaria by its own means, authorities said.
Eleven migrants were taken to hospitals, some by helicopter, as four were in critical condition.
The number of migrants arriving irregularly by sea to the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean soared by 160 percent between January and July 15 from a year ago, totaling almost 20,000 people, according to Spain’s interior ministry. Overall arrivals by sea to Spain, including across the mainland, grew by 88 percent to around 25,300 people.


The route from Africa to the Canary Islands is the fastest-growing migration route in Europe.

After reaching the beach lined with hotels, many migrants lay on the sand, looking frail and exhausted. One lay flat and almost motionless. Many struggled to walk.
Emergency personnel handed the migrants yellow foil blankets while some were on stretchers.
A police officer held a baby in his arms as he stood next to a woman being attended by medics.
Beachgoers, including children, looked on while one tourist handed her water bottle to a migrant.
The route from Africa to the Canary Islands is the fastest-growing migration route in Europe, with irregular crossings up 303 percent from January to May from a year ago, according to the latest data from European border control agency Frontex.
Another boat, carrying 145 migrants, was rescued on Friday near Gran Canaria, authorities said.


Biden pushes party unity as he resists calls to step aside, says he’ll return to campaign next week

Biden pushes party unity as he resists calls to step aside, says he’ll return to campaign next week
Updated 19 July 2024

Biden pushes party unity as he resists calls to step aside, says he’ll return to campaign next week

Biden pushes party unity as he resists calls to step aside, says he’ll return to campaign next week
  • More Democratic members of Congress called for president to drop out Friday

WASHINGTON DC: A growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers called Friday for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the president insisted he’s ready to return to the campaign trail next week to counter what he called a “dark vision” laid out by Republican Donald Trump.
As more Democratic members of Congress called for him to drop out Friday — bringing the total since his disastrous debate against Trump to at least 30 — Biden remained isolated at his beach house in Delaware after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The president, who has insisted he can beat Trump, was huddling with family and relying on a few longtime aides as he resisted efforts to shove him aside.
Biden said Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention showcased a “dark vision for the future.” The president, seeking to move the political conversation away from his fate and onto his rival’s agenda, said Friday he was planning to return to the campaign trail next week and insisted he has a path to victory over Trump, despite the worries of some of his party’s most eminent members.
“Together, as a party and as a country, we can and will defeat him at the ballot box,” Biden said. “The stakes are high, and the choice is clear. Together, we will win.”
Earlier in the day, his campaign chair, Jen O’Malley Dillion, acknowledged “slippage” in support for the president but insisted he’s “absolutely” remaining in the race and the campaign sees “multiple paths” to beating Trump.
“We have a lot of work to do to reassure the American people that, yes, he’s old, but he can win,” she told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show. She said voters concerned about Biden’s fitness to lead aren’t switching to vote for Trump.
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee’s rulemaking arm held a meeting Friday, pressing ahead with plans for a virtual roll call before Aug. 7 to nominate the presidential pick, ahead of the party’s convention later in the month in Chicago.
“President Biden deserves the respect to have important family conversations with members of the caucus and colleagues in the House and Senate and Democratic leadership and not be battling leaks and press statements,” Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, Biden’s closest friend in Congress and his campaign co-chair, told The Associated Press.
It’s a pivotal few days for the president and his party: Trump has wrapped up an enthusiastic Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Thursday. And Democrats, racing time, are considering the extraordinary possibility of Biden stepping aside for a new presidential nominee before their own convention.
Among the democrats expressing worries to allies about Biden’s chances were former President Barack Obama and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, who has privately told Biden the party could lose the ability to seize control of the House if he doesn’t step aside.
New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich called on Biden to exit the race, making him the third Senate Democrat to do so.
“By passing the torch, he would secure his legacy as one of our nation’s greatest leaders and allow us to unite behind a candidate who can best defeat Donald Trump and safeguard the future of our democracy,” said Heinrich, who’s up for reelection.
And Reps. Jared Huffman, Mark Veasey, Chuy Garcia and Mark Pocan, representing a wide swath of the caucus, together called on Biden to step aside.
“We must defeat Donald Trump to save our democracy,” they wrote.
Separately, Rep. Sean Casten of Illinois wrote in an op-ed that with “a heavy heart and much personal reflection” he, too, was calling on Biden to “pass the torch to a new generation.”
Campaign officials said Biden was even more committed to staying in the race. And senior West Wing aides have had no internal discussions or conversations with the president about dropping out.
On Friday, Biden picked up a key endorsement from the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. CHC BOLD PAC said the Biden administration has shown “unwavering commitment” to Latinos and “the stakes couldn’t be higher” in this election.
But there is also time to reconsider. Biden has been told the campaign is having trouble raising money, and key Democrats see an opportunity as he is away from the campaign for a few days to encourage his exit. Among his Cabinet, some are resigned to the likelihood of him losing in November.
The reporting in this story is based in part on information from almost a dozen people who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive private deliberations. The Washington Post first reported on Obama’s involvement.
Biden, 81, tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling in Las Vegas earlier this week and experienced “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.
White House doctor Kevin O’Connor said Friday that the president still had a dry cough and hoarseness, but that his COVID symptoms had improved.
In Congress, Democratic lawmakers have begun having private conversations about lining up behind Harris as an alternative. One lawmaker said Biden’s own advisers are unable to reach a unanimous recommendation about what he should do. More in Congress are considering joining the others who have called for Biden to drop out. Some prefer an open process for choosing a new presidential nominee.
“It’s clear the issue won’t go away,” said Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, the other Senate Democrat who has publicly said Biden should exit the race. Welch said the current state of party angst — with lawmakers panicking and donors revolting — was “not sustainable.”
However, influential Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries are sending signals of concern.
“There is of course work to be done, and that in fact is the case because we are an evenly divided country,” Jeffries said in an interview on WNYC radio Friday.
But he also said, “The ticket that exists right now is the ticket that we can win on. ... It’s his decision to make.”
To be sure, many want Biden to stay in the race. But among Democrats nationwide, nearly two-thirds say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. That sharply undercuts Biden’s post-debate claim that “average Democrats” are still with him.
Amid the turmoil, a majority of Democrats think Vice President Kamala Harris would make a good president herself.
A poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Democrats believe Harris would do a good job in the top slot. About 2 in 10 Democrats don’t believe she would, and another 2 in 10 say they don’t know enough to say.

Bangladesh protesters storm prison as police fail to quell unrest

Bangladesh protesters storm prison as police fail to quell unrest
Updated 19 July 2024

Bangladesh protesters storm prison as police fail to quell unrest

Bangladesh protesters storm prison as police fail to quell unrest
  • Protesters call for PM Sheikh Hasina’s resignation, saying she is responsible for the killings during the clashes
  • Students say they are determined to press on with protests despite government’s requests to calm the situation

DHAKA: Bangladeshi student protesters stormed a prison and freed hundreds of inmates Friday as police struggled to quell unrest, with huge rallies in the capital Dhaka despite a police ban on public gatherings.
This week’s clashes have killed at least 105 people, according to an AFP count of victims reported by hospitals, and emerged as a momentous challenge to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s autocratic government after 15 years in office.
Student protesters stormed a jail in the central Bangladeshi district of Narsingdi and freed the inmates before setting the facility on fire, a police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“I don’t know the number of inmates, but it would be in the hundreds,” he added.
Dhaka’s police force took the drastic step of banning all public gatherings for the day — a first since protests began — in an effort to forestall another day of violence.
“We’ve banned all rallies, processions and public gatherings in Dhaka today,” police chief Habibur Rahman told AFP, adding the move was necessary to ensure “public safety.”
That did not stop another round of confrontations between police and protesters around the sprawling megacity of 20 million people, despite an Internet shutdown aimed at frustrating the organization of rallies.
“Our protest will continue,” Sarwar Tushar, who joined a march in the capital and sustained minor injuries when it was violently dispersed by police, told AFP.
“We want the immediate resignation of Sheikh Hasina. The government is responsible for the killings.”
At least 52 people were killed in the capital on Friday, according to a list drawn up by the Dhaka Medical College Hospital and seen by AFP.
Police fire was the cause of more than half of the deaths reported so far this week, based on descriptions given to AFP by hospital staff.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk said the attacks on student protesters were “shocking and unacceptable.”
“There must be impartial, prompt and exhaustive investigations into these attacks, and those responsible held to account,” he said in a statement.
The capital’s police force earlier said protesters had on Thursday torched, vandalized and carried out “destructive activities” on numerous police and government offices.
Among them was the Dhaka headquarters of state broadcaster Bangladesh Television, which remains offline after hundreds of incensed students stormed the premises and set fire to a building.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Faruk Hossain told AFP that officers had arrested Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed, one of the top leaders of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
“He faces hundreds of cases,” Hossain said, without giving further details on the reasons for Ahmed’s detention.
Near-daily marches this month have called for an end to a quota system that reserves more than half of civil service posts for specific groups, including children of veterans from the country’s 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.
Critics say the scheme benefits children of pro-government groups that back Hasina, 76, who has ruled the country since 2009 and won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.
Hasina’s government is accused by rights groups of misusing state institutions to entrench its hold on power and stamp out dissent, including by the extrajudicial killing of opposition activists.
Her administration this week ordered schools and universities to close indefinitely as police stepped up efforts to bring the deteriorating law and order situation under control.
“This is an eruption of the simmering discontent of a youth population built over years due to economic and political disenfranchisement,” Ali Riaz, a politics professor at Illinois State University, told AFP.
“The job quotas became the symbol of a system which is rigged and stacked against them by the regime.”
Students say they are determined to press on with protests despite Hasina giving a national address earlier this week on the now-offline state broadcaster seeking to calm the unrest.
Nearly half of Bangladesh’s 64 districts reported clashes on Thursday, broadcaster Independent Television reported.
The network said more than 700 people had been wounded throughout Thursday including 104 police officers and 30 journalists.
London-based watchdog NetBlocks said Friday that a “nation-scale” Internet shutdown remained in effect a day after it was imposed.
“Metrics show connectivity flatlining at 10 percent of ordinary levels, raising concerns over public safety as little news flows in or out of the country,” it wrote on social media platform X.

Bangladesh in communications blackout as job quota protests turn deadly

Bangladesh in communications blackout as job quota protests turn deadly
Updated 19 July 2024

Bangladesh in communications blackout as job quota protests turn deadly

Bangladesh in communications blackout as job quota protests turn deadly
  • Mobile internet access blocked, online media, TV channels off air across the country
  • Print newspapers reported on Friday that deadly clashes broke out overnight

DHAKA: Bangladesh went into a nationwide communications blackout on Friday following clashes between police and students that have killed dozens of people in the past few days.

The government announced on Thursday night it was shutting down mobile internet for security reasons as student protestors demanding the removal of government employment quotas were on the streets after authorities sealed their campuses and dorms and suspended all educational institutions.

On Friday morning, television news channels were off air, and most online news websites could not be opened.

Morning headlines and top stories in local dailies estimated that between 24 and 37 people had been killed and hundreds of others injured since the clashes broke out on Sunday between the students, government supporters and security forces.

The actual death toll is feared to be higher, as already on Thursday, students reported 39 deaths. But on Friday, neither student representatives nor local hospital authorities could be reached for comment due to the blackout.

Riot police and at least 2,400 troops from the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh were deployed in the capital, where Dhaka Metropolitan Police banned all gatherings. The forces on the ground were assisted by monitoring helicopters of the Rapid Action Battalion — a counterterrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police.

University students have been demonstrating on campuses since the beginning of July against a rule that reserves a bulk of government jobs for the descendants of those who fought in the country’s 1971 liberation war.

The quota system was abolished by the government after student protests in 2018, but the High Court reinstated it in June, triggering protests.

Under the quota system, 56 percent of public service jobs are reserved for specific groups, including women, marginalized communities and children and grandchildren of freedom fighters — for whom the government earmarks 30 percent of the posts.

More than a fourth of Bangladesh’s 170 million population were people aged between 15 and 29. The unemployment rate is the highest in this group, contributing 83 percent of the total unemployed people in the country.

The quotas for well-paid government jobs hit them directly.

Dr. Rasheda Rawnak Khan, associate professor at Dhaka University, said the issue could have been solved long before the outbreak of the ongoing protests.

“It should have been solved in a prompt manner as the matter is related to the youths,” she told Arab News.

“Probably the state here failed to read the pulses of the youth.”