Bangladesh’s opposition vows more protests amid crackdown on dissent ahead of election

Special Bangladesh’s opposition vows more protests amid crackdown on dissent ahead of election
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters rally in Dhaka on Oct. 28, 2023, demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina step down to allow a free and fair election under a neutral government. (AFP)
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Updated 09 November 2023
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Bangladesh’s opposition vows more protests amid crackdown on dissent ahead of election

Bangladesh’s opposition vows more protests amid crackdown on dissent ahead of election
  • Thousands of political activists reported to have been arrested since Oct. 28
  • Arrests signal ‘attempt at a complete clampdown of dissent,’ Amnesty International says

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s main opposition party vowed on Thursday to continue protesting and demanding a free and fair vote under a caretaker government, following deadly clashes and a crackdown on opposition politicians ahead of elections in January.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party said more than 12,000 of its activists had been arrested since the Oct. 28 protest demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while at least a dozen others had been killed as protests turned violent. A police officer was among the dead and scores of others were injured.

The BNP, whose top leadership is either in prison or in exile, said free and fair elections were not possible under the current government.

“Our protest is to revive democracy and democratic legitimacy in Bangladesh and give people back their right to franchise and rebuild the collapsed democratic institutions like the judiciary and the police,” Nawshad Zamir, the BNP’s international affairs secretary, told Arab News.

“We need an election-time neutral government to ensure free and fair elections to return to people their right of suffrage … we (will) continue to protest until we achieve a free election to revive democracy and rebuild our institutions.”

In a new form of anti-government protests, the BNP has been enforcing periods of nationwide blockades, bringing intercity bus and lorry transport almost to a halt. The next action is set to take place on Sunday and Monday.

That follows opposition-led rallies held late last month that drew tens of thousands of people. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets when clashes erupted between protesters and authorities.

Rights group Amnesty International described the situation as an “intensified crackdown” that signaled “an attempt at a complete clampdown of dissent in Bangladesh” ahead of the election.

The country’s most popular newspaper Prothom Alo reported on Sunday that Bangladesh police had arrested nearly 8,000 opposition figures in a nationwide crackdown since late October, based on reports from its correspondents.

Biplab Barua, office secretary of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League Party and special assistant to the prime minister, disputed the reports of a crackdown against opposition politicians as the UN on Tuesday raised concerns “about the large number of people who’ve been arrested.”

“There is no incident of mass arrest. The number is not true. Ten thousand people were not arrested. The arrests are being conducted with specific incidents and charges in connection to those incidents,” Barua told Arab News.

“(The BNP is) creating anarchy and violence in the name of politics. They are committing crimes in the name of politics … If they believed in democracy, they would participate in the election. They want to grab power through anarchy and bypassing the constitution and election.”

Hasina, who is seeking her fourth straight five-year term in office, has repeatedly ruled out handing power to a caretaker government.

“Elections will happen like it happens in countries such as Canada and India … like it happened in 2018 in Bangladesh,” she told a press conference last week. “Routine government work will not stop.”


US lawmakers hopeful of pause in Gaza war before Ramadan

Richard Blumenthal (L) and Chris Coons. (Photo/Twitter)
Richard Blumenthal (L) and Chris Coons. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 4 sec ago
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US lawmakers hopeful of pause in Gaza war before Ramadan

Richard Blumenthal (L) and Chris Coons. (Photo/Twitter)
  • Israel has killed over 29,000 Palestinians, more than 70 percent of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry

AMMAN: Two senior US lawmakers who held talks with Israeli and Arab leaders said on Tuesday that they were hopeful a deal could be struck allowing a humanitarian pause in the war in Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In an interview with Reuters in Amman, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons — who said they had earlier met Jordan’s King Abdullah and held talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem — said there was “broad hope” of a deal soon to release hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a pause in fighting.
“Within a matter of weeks we could see a pause before Ramadan,” Blumenthal, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Reuters.
Arabs countries led by Jordan have expressed worries that Israel’s continued offensive against Hamas during the holy month of Ramadan could ramp up tensions further in the war.
But Egyptian and Qatari-mediated talks to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and secure the release of over 100 Israeli hostages being held in the Hamas-ruled territory have yet to produce results. A round of inconclusive talks in Cairo ended last week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel would not pay any price for the return of hostages, saying the way to free them was by ramping up the military pressure on Gaza and defeating Hamas.
Still, Blumenthal said that talks with Israeli leaders suggested that Israel is open to a pause as it wraps up a phase of intense fighting in Gaza and moves to a potential focus on counter-insurgency combat instead.
“Once there is that agreement on a pause it opens the way toward a negotiation that could produce self governance by the Palestinians, a state that gives them control over their own destiny,” Blumenthal said.
But an Israeli offensive in Rafah, the southern Gaza city where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge, would complicate efforts toward a halt in the fighting and the senators warned that Israel had an obligation to protect civilians and allow for relocations before moving on Rafah.
“There is an attempt to balance between supporting Israel and its war against Hamas and supporting the legitimate aspirations of Palestinian people for self governance and end of conflict,” Coons said.
 

 

 


Russia denies US reports Moscow plans to put nuclear weapons in space

Russia denies US reports Moscow plans to put nuclear weapons in space
Updated 4 min 27 sec ago
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Russia denies US reports Moscow plans to put nuclear weapons in space

Russia denies US reports Moscow plans to put nuclear weapons in space
  • The 1967 treaty bars signatories – including Russia and the United States – from placing “in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction”

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia was against the deployment of nuclear weapons in space, and his defense minister flatly denied US claims that Russia was developing a nuclear capability for space.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Washington believes Moscow is developing a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon whose detonation could disrupt everything from military communications to phone-based ride services.
“Our position is clear and transparent: We have always been categorically against and are now against the deployment of nuclear weapons in space,” Putin told Sergei Shoigu, his defense minister.
“We urge not only compliance with all agreements that exist in this area, but also offered to strengthen this joint work many times,” Putin said.
He added that Russia’s activities in space did not differ from those of other countries, including the United States.
The clearest public sign that Washington thinks Moscow is working on a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon was a White House spokesperson’s comment on Thursday that the system being developed would
violate the Outer Space Treaty.
The 1967 treaty bars signatories – including Russia and the United States – from placing “in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”
The New York Times has reported that the US intelligence was related to Russia’s attempts to develop a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon.

’NO SUCH PROJECTS’
Commenting on the US allegation, Shoigu said there were no plans of the kind outlined by the unidentified sources in the United States.
“Firstly, there are no such projects — nuclear weapons in space. Secondly, the United States knows that this does not exist,” Shoigu told Putin.
He accused the White House of trying to scare US lawmakers into allocating more funds for Ukraine as part of Washington’s plan to inflict what he said was a strategic defeat on Russia.
He said the second reason for the leaked information about the alleged Russian weapon was to encourage Russia to engage in a dialogue about strategic stability.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led to the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and the post-Cold War arms control architecture has crumbled.
Putin said Russia had never been against discussions about strategic stability, but he said it was impossible to divide what he said was the West’s aim to defeat Russia and talks about strategic security.
“If they seek to inflict a strategic defeat on us, then we must think about what strategic stability means for our country,” Putin said.
“Therefore, we do not reject anything, we do not give up anything, but we need to figure out what they want. They usually want to achieve unilateral advantages. That’s not going to happen.”
Putin did not rule out talks at defense and foreign ministry level with the United States on strategic stability.

 


China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports

China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports
Updated 39 min 49 sec ago
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China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports

China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports
  • “China expresses its strong disappointment at and dissatisfaction with the US veto,” Xinhua reported Zhang Jun as saying

BEIJING: China expressed “strong disappointment” over the United States blocking a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Hamas war calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, Xinhua reported on Wednesday, citing China’s permanent representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun.

Algeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Amar Bendjama votes in favor as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield vetoes a vote on a UN Security Council resolution to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at UN headquarters in New York, US, February 20, 2024. (REUTERS)

The United States on Tuesday vetoed for the third time a draft United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution, blocking a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as it instead pushes the 15-member body to call for a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas.
“China expresses its strong disappointment at and dissatisfaction with the US veto,” Xinhua reported Zhang Jun as saying.
“The US veto sends a wrong message, pushing the situation in Gaza into a more dangerous one,” Zhang said, adding that objection to ceasefire in Gaza is “nothing different from giving the green light to the continued slaughter.”

 

 


Brazil foreign minister says Israeli counterpart ‘lying’ in Gaza spat

Brazil foreign minister says Israeli counterpart ‘lying’ in Gaza spat
Updated 21 February 2024
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Brazil foreign minister says Israeli counterpart ‘lying’ in Gaza spat

Brazil foreign minister says Israeli counterpart ‘lying’ in Gaza spat
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Lula had “crossed a red line,” and Katz declared the Brazilian leader “persona non grata in the state of Israel so long as he doesn’t retract his remarks and apologize”

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil’s foreign minister on Tuesday accused his Israeli counterpart of “lying” as a diplomatic spat escalated over President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s comparison of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza to the Holocaust.
Mauro Vieira, whose country is hosting a G20 foreign ministers meeting this week, said statements by Israel Katz were “unacceptable in their nature and lying in their content” as well as “outrageous.”
Israel has reacted furiously after Lula said the conflict in the Gaza Strip “isn’t a war, it’s a genocide,” and compared it to “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Lula had “crossed a red line,” and Katz declared the Brazilian leader “persona non grata in the state of Israel so long as he doesn’t retract his remarks and apologize.”
Katz summoned Brazil’s ambassador Frederico Meyer for a meeting Monday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem.
In a tit-for-tat move, the Brazilian foreign ministry then summoned the Israeli ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Zonshinem, and recalled Meyer from Tel Aviv for consultations.
On Tuesday, Katz took to X to describe Lula’s comparison as “delusional.”
 

 

 


DR Congo, Rwanda ‘must walk back from brink of war’: US

DR Congo, Rwanda ‘must walk back from brink of war’: US
Updated 21 February 2024
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DR Congo, Rwanda ‘must walk back from brink of war’: US

DR Congo, Rwanda ‘must walk back from brink of war’: US
  • After several months of relative calm, intense fighting resumed last month around the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United States warned Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the UN on Tuesday that they “must walk back from the brink of war,” as tensions rise between the neighbors.
Kinshasa, the United Nations and Western countries say Rwanda is supporting a rebel group active in eastern DRC in a bid to control vast mineral resources in the region, an allegation Kigali denies.
After several months of relative calm, intense fighting resumed last month around the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
“Parties to the conflict and regional actors should immediately resume (peace) processes — diplomatic efforts, not military conflict, are the only path for a negotiated solution and a sustainable peace,” said Robert Wood, an American envoy to the UN, at an emergency meeting concerning the DRC.
Kigali “must also withdraw Rwandan forces from Congolese territory and immediately remove any and all of its surface to air missile systems, which credible reporting indicates they’ve been responsible for intentionally firing on the aerial assets of MONUSCO,” the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, Wood added.
After years of dormancy, the M23 (March 23 Movement) took up arms again in late 2021 and has since seized vast swathes of North Kivu province.
Since early February, Goma, which stands between Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border, has been practically cut off from the country’s interior.
Demonstrators rallied in Goma on Monday in protest at what they said was inaction by the international community in the face of the swirling violence.
The DRC’s military is supported by myriad local armed groups, two foreign private military companies and the presence of UN peacekeepers and troops from the Southern African Development Community.
Rwanda warned against the “externalization” of the conflict into Rwanda.
“The recent escalation of the conflict in eastern DRC comes in the context of... public declarations by the presidents of DRC and Burundi who support regime change in Rwanda and heightened ethnic tension in the region,” said Rwanda’s envoy to the UN Ernest Rwamucyo.
The head of MONUSCO in DRC, Bintou Keita, warned about the possible spread of the conflict, as well as the dire humanitarian situation on the ground.
On Tuesday the UN called for $2.6 billion in aid to “provide live-saving assistance and protection to 8.7 million people,” according to its humanitarian response plan for the year.
“More than 25 million people are food-insecure, while acute malnutrition affects more than 8 million people, mainly children under the age of five,” the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said in a statement.