Pakistan Army, Royal Saudi Land Forces kick off joint military training

Pakistan Army, Royal Saudi Land Forces kick off joint military training
The still image taken from a video shows soldiers from the Pakistan army and the royal Saudi land forces during a joint military training exercise in Okara, Pakistan, on January 21, 2024. (Photo courtesy: army’s media wing)
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Updated 22 January 2024
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Pakistan Army, Royal Saudi Land Forces kick off joint military training

Pakistan Army, Royal Saudi Land Forces kick off joint military training
  • Pakistani, Saudi forces to hone collective combat skills through training, says army’s media wing

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army and the Royal Saudi Land Forces kicked off a joint military training exercise at the eastern city of Okara on Sunday, a statement from the army’s media wing said. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong defense ties and bilateral security cooperation. The two nations regularly engage in joint air, ground, and sea military exercises. Several cadets from the Kingdom, along with counterparts from other Middle Eastern nations, visit Pakistan to undergo specialized army training annually.

A joint Pakistan-Saudi Arabia defense forum met earlier this month in Islamabad to discuss enhancing bilateral cooperation and increasing collaborations in all domains. 

Sunday’s training was organized by the Multan Corps and took place at the Okara Garrison, the Inter-Services Public Relations said, adding that both Pakistani and Saudi contingents presented an impressive drill. 

“Through the joint training program, the armed forces’ contingents of both countries will undergo classroom sessions and have the opportunity to hone their collective combat skills,” the ISPR said. 

Officers and soldiers who took part in the training were presented badges at the end of the ceremony by the Okara Garrison commander, who was the chief guest at the event. 

Apart from defense and security ties, Pakistan enjoys strong economic and trade relations with the Kingdom. 

Saudi Arabia is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates, serving as the top destination for remittances for the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Along with the UAE, the kingdom has frequently bailed Pakistan out of its economic crisis over the years. Last year, Saudi Arabia lent $2 billion to Pakistan which proved critical in helping it secure a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund and avoid a sovereign debt default.


Myanmar authorities arrest 22 for marking Suu Kyi’s birthday: media

Myanmar authorities arrest 22 for marking Suu Kyi’s birthday: media
Updated 9 sec ago
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Myanmar authorities arrest 22 for marking Suu Kyi’s birthday: media

Myanmar authorities arrest 22 for marking Suu Kyi’s birthday: media
  • A prominent pro-junta Telegram account posted several photos claiming to show those arrested, including one showing five people with their legs placed in stocks
YANGON: Myanmar authorities arrested 22 people for marking the birthday of imprisoned democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi, local media reported on Wednesday.
Police in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, arrested 22 people who had posted pictures of themselves wearing flowers in their hair — long a signature Suu Kyi look — Eleven Media reported, citing an anonymous official.
Other local media said around a dozen had been arrested in the central Myanmar city for wearing flowers or praying with them in public.
A prominent pro-junta Telegram account posted several photos claiming to show those arrested, including one showing five people with their legs placed in stocks.
Suu Kyi, who turned 79 on Wednesday, has been detained by the military since it toppled her government and seized power in 2021.
The coup and subsequent crackdown on dissent have sparked a widespread armed uprising that the military is struggling to crush.
The junta has rebuffed numerous requests by foreign leaders and diplomats to meet Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, who has reportedly suffered health problems during more than three years in detention.
Suu Kyi’s only known encounter with a foreign envoy since the coup came in July last year, when then-Thai foreign minister Don Pramudwinai said he had met her for more than an hour.
Suu Kyi is serving a 27-year sentence imposed by a junta court after a trial condemned by rights groups as a sham to shut her out of politics.
Her son said in February she was in “strong spirits” after receiving a letter from her — their first communication since she was detained in the coup.

Philippine VP Duterte exits Marcos cabinet as their alliance crumbles

Philippine VP Duterte exits Marcos cabinet as their alliance crumbles
Updated 12 min 25 sec ago
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Philippine VP Duterte exits Marcos cabinet as their alliance crumbles

Philippine VP Duterte exits Marcos cabinet as their alliance crumbles
  • President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had accepted Duterte’s resignation from the posts of education minister and vice chair of an anti-insurgency task force

MANILA: Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte resigned on Wednesday from the cabinet of President Ferdinand Marcos and another key post, in the latest sign that her alliance with Marcos Jr has crumbled.
Marcos had accepted Duterte’s resignation from the posts of education minister and vice chair of an anti-insurgency task force, Presidential Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a statement, adding that the vice president did not provide a reason for the move.
Duterte, who will remain vice president, said in a press conference that her “resignation is not because of weakness but because of true concern for teachers and the youth.”
In the Philippines, where the president and vice president are elected separately, without a cabinet position, the vice president’s powers are largely limited to ceremonial roles.
The Marcos and Duterte families joined forces in 2022 with Sara Duterte standing as Marcos’ vice presidential running mate, allowing him to tap the Duterte family’s huge support base and seal a comeback for the disgraced Marcos dynasty.
That alliance was always expected to collapse, but analysts were surprised by how soon the gloves came off after Marcos’ predecessor, and Sara’s father, Rodrigo Duterte, accused the president in January of using drugs.
Duterte’s son, the mayor of Davao city, also called for Marcos’ resignation at the time, and Sara did not object to the calls either. “It is the break we have all been waiting for,” Jean Encinas-Franco, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said of the vice president’s decision to step down from her cabinet post.
Franco said Sara Duterte, who continues to enjoy high trust ratings based on independent opinion polls, would now have more leeway to criticize Marcos’ policies.
Since coming to power in 2022, Marcos has reversed Rodrigo Duterte’s pro-China stance and pivoted back to the United States, granting Washington greater access to Philippine bases amid China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and near Taiwan.
He also brought to the fore a 2016 arbitral ruling, fortifying Manila’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, which former president Rodrigo Duterte had largely set aside.
A major blow to the Marcos-Duterte relationship came late last year when Marcos said the government was considering rejoining the International Criminal Court, nearly five years after Rodrigo had withdrawn membership over objections to a bid by the court to investigate a bloody anti-narcotics campaign under him.


Strict asylum rules and poor treatment of migrants are pushing people north to the UK

Strict asylum rules and poor treatment of migrants are pushing people north to the UK
Updated 20 min 12 sec ago
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Strict asylum rules and poor treatment of migrants are pushing people north to the UK

Strict asylum rules and poor treatment of migrants are pushing people north to the UK
  • Europe’s increasingly strict asylum rules, growing xenophobia and hostile treatment of migrants pushing them north
  • Some migrants don’t even try for new lives in the EU anymore

AMBLETEUSE, France: The rising tide crept above their waists, soaking the babies they hugged tight. Around a dozen Kurds refused to leave the cold waters of the English Channel in a futile attempt to delay the inevitable: French police had just foiled their latest attempt to reach the United Kingdom by boat.
The men, women and children were trapped again on the last frontier of their journey from Iraq and Iran. They hoped that a rubber dinghy would get them to better lives with housing, schooling and work. Now it disappeared on the horizon, only a few of its passengers aboard.
On the beach of the quiet northern French town of Ambleteuse, police pleaded for the migrants to leave the 10-degree-Celsius (50-degree-Fahrenheit) water, so cold it can kill within minutes. Do it for the children’s sake, they argued.
“The boat is go!” an increasingly irritated officer shouted in French-accented English. “It’s over! It’s over!”
The asylum-seekers finally emerged from the sea defeated, but there was no doubt that they would try to reach the UK again. They would not find the haven they needed in France, or elsewhere in the European Union.
Europe’s increasingly strict asylum rules, growing xenophobia and hostile treatment of migrants were pushing them north. While the UK government has been hostile, too, many migrants have family or friends in the UK and a perception they will have more opportunities there.
EU rules stipulate that a person must apply for asylum in the first member state they land in. This has overwhelmed countries on the edge of the 27-nation bloc such as Italy, Greece and Spain.
Some migrants don’t even try for new lives in the EU anymore. They are flying to France from as far away as Vietnam to attempt the Channel crossing after failing to get permission to enter the UK, which has stricter visa requirements.
“No happy here,” said Adam, an Iraqi father of six who was among those caught on the beach in a recent May morning. He refused to provide his last name due to his uncertain legal status in France. He had failed to find schooling and housing for his children in France and had grown frustrated with the asylum office’s lack of answers about his case. He thought things would be better in the UK, he said.
While the number of people entering the EU without permission is nowhere near as high as during a 2015-2016 refugee crisis, far-right parties across Europe, including in France, have exploited migration to the continent and made big electoral wins in the most recent European Parliamentary elections. Their rhetoric, and the treatment already faced by many people on the French coast and elsewhere in the bloc, clash with the stated principles of solidarity, openness and respect for human dignity that underpin the democratic EU, human rights advocates note.
In recent months, the normally quiet beaches around Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne-Sur-Mer have become the stage of cat-and-mouse games — even violent clashes — between police and smugglers. Police have fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Smugglers have hurled stones.
While boat crossings across the Channel represent only a tiny fraction of migration to the UK, France agreed last year to hold migrants back in exchange for hundreds of millions of euros. It’s an agreement akin to deals made between the European Union and North African nations in recent years. And while many people have been stopped by police, they are not offered alternative solutions and are bound to try crossing again.
More than 12,000 people have reached England in small boats in the first five months of the year, 18 percent more than during the same period last year, according to data published by the UK’s Home Office. The Home Office said 882 people arrived in the UK in 15 boats on Tuesday, the highest daily total of the year.
The heightened border surveillance is increasing risks and ultimately leading to more deaths, closer to shore, said Salomé Bahri, a coordinator with the nongovernmental organization Utopia 56, which helps migrants stranded in France. At least 20 people have died so far this year trying to reach the UK, according to Utopia 56. That’s nearly as many as died in all of last year, according to statistics published by the International Organization of Migration.
People are rushing to avoid being caught by authorities and there are more fatalities, Bahri said. In late April, five people died, including a 7-year-old girl who was crushed inside a rubber boat after more than 110 people boarded it frantically trying to escape police.
Authorities in the north of France denied AP’s request for an interview but have previously defended the “life-saving” work of police and blamed violence on smugglers who have also attacked officers.
A spot on a flimsy rubber dinghy can cost between 1,000 to 2,000 euros (around $1,100-$2,200) making it a lucrative business for the smuggling networks led primarily by Iraqi Kurdish groups. They can earn up to $1 million a month (approximately 920,000 euros) according to a report published earlier this year by The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
Sitting around a fire in an abandoned warehouse-turned-migrant camp in Calais, Mohammed Osman contemplated his limited options. The 25-year-old Sudanese man was studying medicine in Moscow when the civil war broke out in his home country a year ago. He suspended his dream of becoming a doctor. Forced to flee the fighting, his family could no longer afford to pay for his university fees and Osman was forced to leave Russia, where his visa only allowed him to study, not work. He crossed to Belarus and then to Poland where he says he was pushed back and beaten by Polish guards several times.
Eventually, he made it across the border and reached Germany where he tried to apply for asylum but was ordered to return to Poland, as per EU rules. All he wants now is to finish his medical studies in the UK, a country whose language he, like many other Sudanese people, already speaks. The issue, as always, is how to get there. Talks of potential deportation to Rwanda have only added more stress and frustration.
“So where is the legal way for me?” he asked. “I am a good person. I know that I can be a good doctor. … So what is the problem?”
In another makeshift camp near Dunkirk that police routinely attempt to clear, more dreams were held in suspense. Farzanee, 28, left Iran to follow her passion: becoming a professional bodybuilder. Back home she was banned from taking part in competitions and persecuted for her sport.
“I was even threatened with my family, that’s why I left my country,” she said, refusing to provide her last name out of fear for her and her loved ones’ safety.
Together with her husband, they managed to get a visa for France with a fake invitation letter. But even on EU soil they fear they could be deported back to Iran and believe only the UK to be safe. They have tried — and failed — to board boats to the UK “seven or eight times” but have vowed to keep trying until they make it.
“Us and other Iranians like me, we have one thing in common,” explained Farzanee’s husband Mohammad. “When you ask them they will tell you: ‘free life or death.’”
A few days after this interview, Mohammad and his wife Farzanee made it safely to the UK


UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak

UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak
Updated 51 min 28 sec ago
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UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak

UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak
  • Provisional data from Britain’s interior ministry showed 882 migrants arrived on Tuesday, taking the yearly total so far to above 12,300

LONDON: More than 800 asylum seekers arrived in Britain via small boats on Tuesday, the highest single-day figure since late 2022, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a July 4 national election.
Provisional data from Britain’s interior ministry showed 882 migrants arrived on Tuesday, taking the yearly total so far to above 12,300. The daily figure was last higher in November 2022, when 947 migrants arrived in a single day.
Trailing far behind the opposition Labour party in opinion polls, and with immigration a major concern for some voters, “stopping the boats” and curbing illegal migration has been one of Sunak’s flagship pledges.
The centerpiece of Sunak’s immigration policy is a plan to deport asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda and create a deterrent for migrants using small boats to cross from France.
But, because he calling the election earlier than many expected, that plan has yet to come into effect.
The opposition Labour Party, which is about 20 points ahead in opinion polls, has said it would scrap the Rwanda policy if it comes to power.
Instead, its proposed solution is to create a Border Security Command that would bring together staff from the police, the domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors to work with international agencies to stop people smuggling.


Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30
Updated 19 June 2024
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Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30
  • Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food and water
  • In 2021, an epidemic killed more than 2,300 people, especially children under the age of 14

LAGOS: Nigerian health officials are issuing warnings over a cholera outbreak that has killed at least 30 people, many of them in the commercial capital Lagos, since the start of the year.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food and water. It typically causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and muscle cramps — and sometimes death.
Lagos State health officials reported 15 deaths so far and 350 suspected cases, according to a statement on X, formerly Twitter this week.
Lagos Water Corporation warned against consuming water from unreliable or untreated courses.
“According to the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the primary cause of the cholera outbreak has been linked to the consumption of contaminated water and inadequate sanitation,” it said in a statement.
Last week, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and Prevention alerted the public of the increasing trend in cases of the disease across the country as the rainy season intensifies.
The agency said 30 people had died since the start of the year. An outbreak killed 128 people with more than 3,600 suspected cases across Africa’s most populous country last year compared to two deaths in 2022.
Nigeria is particularly vulnerable to cholera outbreaks.
In 2021, an epidemic killed more than 2,300 people, especially children under the age of 14, according to health authorities.