Pakistan spy chief’s extension for purpose of policy ‘continuity’, PM says

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Anwaar-ul- Haq Kakar arrived in Riyadh on Friday to hold key talks. (SPA)
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Anwaar-ul- Haq Kakar arrived in Riyadh on Friday to hold key talks. (SPA)
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Updated 11 November 2023
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Pakistan spy chief’s extension for purpose of policy ‘continuity’, PM says

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Anwaar-ul- Haq Kakar arrived in Riyadh on Friday to hold key talks. (SPA)
  • In interview with Arab News, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar says ‘nothing unusual and abnormal’ about extensions
  • Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum was appointed on Nov. 20, 2022 and was due to retire late this month

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said that the term of the head of Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, has been extended to preserve “continuity” of policy at a time when the country is facing increasing militant attacks.

This is the first time a Pakistani official has publicly commented on the extension of Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum, director-general of the ISI, who was due to retire late this month.

The military has not yet announced Anjum’s extension formally, but there has been weekslong speculation in Pakistani media that it had been granted.

The DG ISI is one of the most important positions in Pakistan, operating at the intersection of national politics and foreign relations.

The agency oversees efforts to combat militants and is also feared by civilian politicians for its role in past military coups and managing political affairs.

The last DG ISI to receive an extension was Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, whose tenure coincided with major anti-militant offensives in the country’s northwest.

The extension for Anjum also comes during a major uptick in militancy by groups such as Daesh, as well as Pakistan’s own indigenous Taliban movement, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, which Islamabad says has been emboldened by the coming to power of the Afghan Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

Try to understand the point of continuity (of policy). Any system prefers and supports the idea of continuity.

Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, Pakistan’s PM

“Try to understand the point of continuity (of policy). Any system prefers and supports the idea of continuity,” Kakar told Arab News in an interview this week when asked why Anjum was given an extension.  

While he did not disclose the specific details of the policies the government and military wanted Anjum to continue to implement, he said that the state has the “discretion” to grant an extension of term if it deems that doing so will provide a “security benefit.”

He added: “There’s nothing unusual and abnormal about it.”

Anjum was appointed DG ISI on Nov. 20, 2022. Little over a week later, the TTP said it would no longer abide by a monthslong ceasefire with the Pakistani government, urging its fighters to resume attacks against a continuous military campaign against them. Since then, the group has launched attacks on police compounds, security convoys and other military and civilian targets.

A report published by the Islamabad-based independent Center for Research and Security Studies in September said at least 700 security officials and militants had been killed in Pakistan in the first nine months of the year. Scores more have been killed since in attacks across the country.

And as campaigning steps up for general elections due in January, bombings across Pakistan have also stoked fears of violence at political rallies that can draw tens of thousands of people in the country of over 230 million.

Kakar told Arab News he did not want to link the rise in militancy to a possible delay in the election.

“They (militants) keep on changing their tactics, we have to respond accordingly,” the premier said. “So that’s why I’m saying that I’m not linking it (rise in attacks) or our government is not linking it with the electoral process.”

‘Level playing field’

Kakar, who runs a caretaker government constitutionally mandated to oversee general elections, also has other challenges, including widespread allegations of political persecution by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of now-jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Political parties as well as independent analysts say Kakar’s government and the military establishment have a soft corner for the Pakistan Muslim League (N) of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Both deny this.

Sharif, convicted on corruption charges in two cases after his ouster as prime minister in 2017, returned to Pakistan from self-exile on Oct. 21 to lead his party in elections.

Ahead of his return, Sharif got protective bail against arrest from a court and has since secured bail in two corruption cases. In one of the cases, the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference in which Sharif was sentenced to seven years in jail in 2018, the former premier’s sentence was suspended by the caretaker administration in the Punjab province, which is widely considered to be close to the military establishment. The army denies it has any political affiliations.

The suspension of the sentence has led to widespread speculation that the way is being paved for Sharif’s return to power for a fourth time and a number of political parties, including the PTI and the Pakistan People’s Party of the Bhutto dynasty, have openly complained of the lack of what has popularly come to be called a “level playing field” — a euphemism for fair competition in elections.

As the electoral day approaches, this rhetoric will increase for a “very obvious understandable reason,” Kakar said.  

“Every political party wants to create a perception, in my opinion, with its voters and its support base that they are the victim of the administration and to attract that sympathy and translate to into vote support,” he explained, rebuffing accusations of unfair competition.

“I don’t see that there is a government policy of the caretaker to encourage or discourage one or other political group.”

Responding to allegations by the PTI of a widespread crackdown against the party, and by Khan that over 100 legal cases against him were politically motivated, Kakar said all parties had the right to seek remedies through courts.

Khan, like Sharif, is also disqualified from the election because of an August graft conviction, which he has appealed.

“They should exhaust all the legal options if they are being legally barred from the electoral process,” the premier said.

Asked if he was prepared, as head of the caretaker government, to create a “level playing field” by suspending Khan’s sentence so he could contest elections, as the Punjab administration had done for Sharif, Kakar said:

“We will deliberate in that situation if (it arises) … If it comes to that, we will deliberate what are the options and what needs to be done and we will decide accordingly.”

 


More than 1,200 UK cyclists ride to raise awareness, funds for Gaza

More than 1,200 UK cyclists ride to raise awareness, funds for Gaza
Updated 20 July 2024
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More than 1,200 UK cyclists ride to raise awareness, funds for Gaza

More than 1,200 UK cyclists ride to raise awareness, funds for Gaza
  • Rides will run across London, Belfast, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and South Wales

LONDON: For three weeks, more than 1,200 people will be cycling in cities across the UK, calling on the newly-elected Labour government to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and to end arms sales to Israel.
The Big Ride was founded in 2015 by activists seeking to combine a passion for cycling with solidarity for Palestine.
This year’s events start on Saturday and run until Aug. 10 in London, Belfast, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and South Wales.
The grassroots organization will also be raising funds for Palestinian charities, including the Middle East Children’s Alliance, The Amos Trust, and the Gaza Sunbirds para cycling team, which continue their work in Gaza amidst the ongoing conflict.
Ellen Logan, one of the organizers of The Big Ride, said: “For years we’ve witnessed the daily oppression of the Palestinian people — discrimination, subjugation, and inhumanity. And now we’ve spent the last 10 months watching a live-streamed genocide. Everyone should be outraged and campaigning for an end to this violence.”
Logan added: “We use our bikes and freedoms to raise awareness and provide crucial aid for children and disabled cyclists on the ground in Gaza.”
A recent letter published in British medical journal, The Lancet, estimated the actual death toll in Gaza could be as high as 186,000.
British actress Maxine Peake, who is participating in the cycling event, said: “The Big Ride for Palestine has been raising awareness of this for nearly 10 years now. This year, more riders than ever have signed up, so please join a Big Ride near you.”
 


Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount

Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount
Updated 20 July 2024
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Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount

Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount
  • Supreme Court hearing on contentious job quotas expected on Sunday
  • At least 103 people dead, including 44 killed in Dhaka on Friday alone

DHAKA: The Bangladeshi military was deployed to the streets to impose a nationwide curfew on Saturday, after more than 100 people were killed in clashes between police and students protesting government job quotas.

The curfew follows a communications blackout that has left the country of 170 million cut off from the world. Television channels were off air and most local news websites were down as the government shut internet services a day earlier.

“Army members will operate in aid to the civil administration under the guidance of district administrators and city commissioners,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal told Arab News.

In the capital, the military joined riot police and thousands of Border Guard personnel after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police banned all gatherings amid increasing numbers of casualties.

Students have been demonstrating 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.

At least 103 people have been killed in the past five days and thousands injured, according to a count based on reports in the local media. On Friday alone, at least 44 people were killed in Dhaka, which saw intense clashes between protesters, government supporters and security forces.

Air Commodore (Rtd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, a security analyst, told Arab News that the nationwide military-backed curfew and the amount of violence across the country were “something unprecedented.”

He was referring to reports that numerous administration offices were set on fire and government vehicles vandalized on Friday. On Thursday, the headquarters of a state-owned television station was set ablaze.

“We have not seen such vandalism earlier in the country where many significant government establishments were vandalized and set on fire,” Choudhury said.

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

An appeal hearing is expected at the Supreme Court on Sunday morning.

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.

These quotas, which reserve hundreds of thousands of government jobs, hit young people directly.

The country’s unemployment rate is the highest among people aged between 15 and 29 — more than a fourth of Bangladesh’s population — who constitute 83 percent of the total unemployed.


Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt

Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt
Updated 20 July 2024
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Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt

Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt
  • Trump and Vance will take the stage in Grand Rapids with the Republican Party unified behind them after this week’s nominating convention

GRAND RAPIDS:Donald Trump will hold his first campaign rally on Saturday since he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt one week ago and fresh from his nominating convention where his takeover of the Republican Party was cemented.
Trump will appear in Grand Rapids, in the battleground state of Michigan, along with his new vice presidential pick, Ohio US Senator J.D. Vance. It will be their first campaign event together as the now official Republican presidential ticket.
Republican Party officials said during Trump’s nominating convention in Milwaukee this week that his brush with death last Saturday had changed him, and that when he made his acceptance speech on Thursday night he would call for national unity.
While Trump began the address with a call for unity and national healing, much of his speech was his well-known list of grievances and attacks on opponents.
It is unclear what type of a speech Trump will deliver on Saturday, but his diehard supporters typically flock to such events to hear Trump’s more traditional inflammatory rhetoric.
Trump and Vance will take the stage in Grand Rapids with the Republican Party unified behind them after this week’s nominating convention. In contrast, the Democrats are in turmoil and it is no longer certain that President Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee facing Trump in the Nov. 5 election.
Biden is facing mounting calls from many elected officials in his own party to step aside as the party’s White House candidate and to end his re-election bid, after his poor debate performance against Trump last month.
Biden is trailing in opinion polls and is behind in every swing state against Trump. Many Democrats fear he may have virtually no path to victory and that the party needs a new presidential candidate to take on Trump.
The rally in Grand Rapids will be in an indoor arena, unlike the event in Butler, Pennsylvania last weekend, which was outdoors. At that event, the gunman was able to scale the roof of a building outside the Secret Service perimeter before opening fire on Trump, clipping his ear, killing a rally-goer and wounding several others.
The US Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, declined to comment on security for the Grand Rapids event. An investigation is under way into the security failures at the Butler rally.
“The Secret Service does not discuss the means and methods used for our protective operations,” the agency said in a statement.
Trump gave a detailed account of his narrow brush with death in his convention speech on Thursday, telling the audience that he was only talking to them “by the grace of Almighty God.”


Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants
Updated 20 July 2024
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Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

DAKAR: Senegal’s army said Saturday that it had intercepted a boat carrying over 200 migrants trying to reach Europe, after nearly 90 died when attempting the dangerous Atlantic crossing earlier this month.
The boat intercepted by the patrol boat in fishing waters near Lompoul in northwest Senegal on Friday was carrying 202 people, including five women and a minor, the army posted on X.
In early July, a boat carrying around 170 people who set off from Senegal capsized off the coast of Mauritania, killing nearly 90 people.
The disaster prompted Senegal’s President Ousmane Sonko to urge people not to risk the Atlantic Ocean’s currents in overcrowded vessels that often are not seaworthy.
But the route is increasingly used as authorities step up surveillance in the Mediterranean.
“I once again make a plea to the young: your solution is not to be found in boats,” Sonko told a crowd of youths in Saint-Louis.
“The future of the world is in Africa... the only continent that still has the significant scope for progress and growth.”
According to the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, more than 5,000 people died trying to reach Spain by sea in the first five months of this year, representing the highest daily average toll since it began keeping records in 2007.


Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine

Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine
Updated 20 July 2024
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Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine

Two killed in overnight strikes on Ukraine

KYIV: At least two people were killed and four wounded in a Russian airstrike overnight on Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, the regional prosecutor said Saturday.
“Around 3:15 in the morning the enemy launched a missile attack on the town of Barvinkove, in Izium district,” the prosecutor said in a statement.
It listed the dead as two men aged 48 and 69 and said around 50 buildings were damaged in the strike, apparently by three Russian Iskander missiles.
Another strike hit an agricultural business in the village of Oleksiivka, it said, though there were no reported casualties.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been urging his nation’s allies to step up air defense support to be able to intercept Russian missiles and drones raining down daily on the country over nearly 30 months of conflict.
The death toll in a Russian strike Friday on a playground in the southern city of Mykolaiv rose to four, including one child, with 24 injured, its mayor Oleksander Senkevitch posted on Telegram.