Imran Khan-backed candidates lead after over half of seats counted

People watch latest election results live on television at a shop, a day after Pakistan’s national elections in Lahore on Friday. (AFP)
People watch latest election results live on television at a shop, a day after Pakistan’s national elections in Lahore on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2024
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Imran Khan-backed candidates lead after over half of seats counted

Imran Khan-backed candidates lead after over half of seats counted
  • As of 6:30 p.m. independents had bagged 62 seats of 156 seats counted, Sharif’s PML-N had 46
  • Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari-led PPP had 39 seats
  • Voting held for 265 national assembly seats

ISLAMABAD: Independent candidates backed by jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan had won the most seats in Pakistan’s general election by Friday evening, official results from the Election Commission showed, as counting continued a day after polls marred by militant attacks and the suspension of mobile phone services.

As of 6:30 p.m. on Friday, independents had bagged 62 out of 156 seats counted so far while ex-premier Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party received 46, followed by the Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari-led Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) with 39 seats.
Votes were held for 265 national assembly seats. A party needs 133 seats for a simple majority.
But despite being in the lead, the PTI complained late results showed manipulation and rigging had taken place in constituencies where candidates affiliated with the party had congested.
As per election laws, results had to be announced by 2 a.m. on Friday, nine hours after polling closed, with a delay of until 10am allowed in extenuating circumstances.
But as of Friday evening, the results of over a hundred seats were yet to be released, raising widespread concerns about manipulation and meddling in counting.
“The results of our winning candidates are being altered, though the fact is our party has won a majority in Punjab and KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) provinces,” PTI secretary-information Raoof Hassan told reporters at a press conference at the party’s central secretariat.
“We have already started meetings to discuss the ways to form our governments” at the center and the two provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said.
Independent members cannot form a government on their own under Pakistan’s election system which also includes reserved seats that will be allotted to parties based on their winnings. But independent members have the option to join any party after the elections.
In this case, most of the independent candidates are from Khan’s PTI, and were forced to contest as independents after the party was stripped of its iconic “bat” symbol ahead of polls over not holding intra-party elections, a legal requirement. PTI candidates thus had to contest as independents, each with a different election symbol, which the party had feared would become a source of confusion for voters in a country where over 40 percent of the population is illiterate.
The PTI-backed independents will now have a choice to join a party three days after the official notification of their victories.

‘Meddling’
Analysts have also raised concerns over the ECP missing its deadlines for the announcement of results, saying further delays would lead to more allegations of result-tampering in an already tainted election.
“The delay in results is catastrophic for the credibility of the results of the election,” Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst, told Arab News. “It is hard to imagine the election day itself having been better managed and hard to imagine the vote tallying having been worse managed.”
Salahuddin Safder, a spokesperson of the FAFEN election observer group, said the delay in the announcement of results “remained a concern” though the body’s observers had witnessed no major issues during polling.
“We did not receive many results till the first deadline of 2 a.m. and (the ECP) even missed the second deadline given in the law which is 10 a.m. next morning after the polls,” he said.
In the run-up to the polls, Khan’s PTI complained of a state-backed crackdown against the party, including not being allowed to campaign freely.
Khan, arguably the central pole of Pakistani politics, was missing from Thursday’s elections, as he has been in jail since August last year and is also disqualified from running for public office for 10 years.
The former premier was convicted in three back-to-back cases the week before polls and faces dozens of other legal challenges, including one case in which he is accused of ordering violent attacks on military installations on May 9, 2023, which could entail the death sentence.

 


UN says world population to peak at 10.3 billion in 2080s

UN says world population to peak at 10.3 billion in 2080s
Updated 5 sec ago
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UN says world population to peak at 10.3 billion in 2080s

UN says world population to peak at 10.3 billion in 2080s
  • A quarter of world’s population now lives in one of 63 countries where the population has already peaked
  • Nearly 50 other countries should join that group over the next 30 years, including Brazil, Iran and Turkiye

NEW YORK: Earth’s population will peak in the mid-2080s at around 10.3 billion people, then drop slightly to a level much lower than anticipated a decade ago, the United Nations said.
The current population of 8.2 billion people will rise to that maximum over the next 60 years, then dip to 10.2 billion by the end of the century, says a report released Thursday entitled “World Population Prospects 2024.”
It said the size of the world’s population in 2100 will be six percent lower, or 700 million people fewer, than what was anticipated in June 2013.
“The demographic landscape has evolved greatly in recent years,” said Li Junhua, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
He said the unexpected population peak stems from several factors that include lower levels of fertility in some of the world’s largest countries, especially China.
He said this lower maximum will also come earlier than previously calculated and this is a hopeful sign as the world fights global warming: fewer humans accounting for less aggregate consumption would mean less pressure on the environment.
“However, slower population growth will not eliminate the need to reduce the average impact attributable to the activities of each individual person,” this official said.
More than a quarter, or 28 percent, of the world’s population now lives in one of 63 countries or areas where the population has already peaked, including China, Russia, Japan and Germany, the report said.
Nearly 50 other countries should join that group over the next 30 years, including Brazil, Iran and Turkiye.
But population growth will continue in more than 120 countries beyond 2054. These include India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United States, said the UN.
A rise in global life expectancy — interrupted by the Covid pandemic — has resumed, with an average of 73.3 years of longevity in 2024. It will average 77.4 years in 2054.
So the world’s population will get more and more gray. By the late 2070s, the number of people 65 or older is projected to be 2.2 billion, surpassing those under 18, the study predicts.


Son of Asia’s richest man marries in year’s most extravagant wedding

Son of Asia’s richest man marries in year’s most extravagant wedding
Updated 7 min 6 sec ago
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Son of Asia’s richest man marries in year’s most extravagant wedding

Son of Asia’s richest man marries in year’s most extravagant wedding
  • The celebrations of Anant Ambani marrying Radhika Merchant took place at Ambani-owned Jio World Convention Center in Mumbai
  • The marriage culminated months of wedding events that featured performances by pop stars including Rihanna and Justin Bieber

MUMBAI: The youngest son of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, married his longtime girlfriend early Saturday in what many dubbed the wedding of the year attended by global celebrities, business tycoons and politicians, highlighting the billionaire’s staggering wealth and rising clout.
The wedding rituals, including exchanging garlands by the couple and walking around the sacred fire, began Friday and were completed past midnight.
The celebrations of Anant Ambani marrying Radhika Merchant took place at the Ambani-owned Jio World Convention Center in Mumbai and the family home. The marriage culminated months of wedding events that featured performances by pop stars including Rihanna and Justin Bieber.

Hollywood actor John Cena poses as he arrives to attend the wedding ceremony of billionaire Mukesh Ambani's son Anant Ambani and fiancee Radhika Merchant in Mumbai on July 12, 2024. (AFP)

The four-day wedding celebrations, which began on Friday with the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, will be followed by a grand reception that will run through the weekend. The guest list included former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Boris Johnson, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin H. Nasser, Adele, Lana Del Rey, Drake and David Beckham, according to local media. The Ambani family did not confirm the guest list.
Television news channels showed celebrities like Kim Kardashian in a red ensemble and professional wrestler and Hollywood actor John Cena arriving.
International guests also wore traditional dresses by major Indian fashion designers. They put on embroidered “sherwanis,” a long-sleeved outer coat worn by men in South Asia. Cena came in sky blue sherwani and white pants. Nick Jonas wore a pink sherwani and white pants.

Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas (L) and her husband American singer-songwriter and actor Nick Jonas (R) pose for photos as they arrive to attend the wedding ceremony of billionaire tycoon and Chairman of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani's son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Mumbai on July 12, 2024. (AFP)

Police imposed traffic diversions around the wedding venue from Friday to Monday to handle the influx of guests who flew to Mumbai, where heavy monsoon rains have caused flooding and flight disruptions for the past week.
The extravaganza and the display of opulence that comes with the wedding has led many to raise questions about rising inequality in India, where the gap between rich and poor is growing. The event has also sparked anger among some Mumbai residents, who say they are struggling with snarled traffic.

Billionaire tycoon and Chairman of Reliance Industries Mukesh Ambani (C) with his wife Nita Ambani (3R), daughter Isha Ambani (2R), sons Akash Ambani (L) and Anant Ambani (C, left), daughter-in-law Shloka Mehta (2L), and son-in-law Anand Piramal pose for photos as they arrive to attend the wedding ceremony of Anant and Radhika Merchant in Mumbai on July 12, 2024. (AFP)


“It affects our earnings. I don’t care much about the wedding,” said Vikram, a taxi driver who uses only his first name.
The father of the groom, Mukesh Ambani, is the world’s ninth richest man, with a net worth of $116 billion, according to Forbes. He is the richest person in Asia. His Reliance Industries is a conglomerate reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests that include petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecoms and retail.
The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story family compound in Mumbai worth $1 billion. The building contains three helipads, a 160-car garage and a private movie theater.
The groom, Anant, 29, oversees the conglomerate’s renewable and green energy expansion. He also runs a 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) animal rescue center in Gujarat state’s Jamnagar, the family’s hometown.
The bride, Radhika Merchant, also 29, is the daughter of pharmaceutical tycoon Viren Merchant and is the marketing director for his company, Encore Healthcare, according to Vogue.
Ambani’s critics say his company has relied on political connections during Congress party-led governments in the 1970s and ‘80s and under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014.
The Ambani family’s pre-wedding celebrations have been lavish and star-studded.
In March, they threw a three-day prenuptial bash for Anant that had 1,200 guests, including former world leaders, tech tycoons and Bollywood megastars, and performances by Rihanna, Akon and Diljit Dosanjh, a Punjabi singer who shot to international fame when he performed at Coachella. The event was also attended by tech billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.
It was the start of lavish monthslong pre-wedding celebrations that have grabbed headlines and set off a social media frenzy.
In May, the family took guests on a three-day cruise from Italy to France, which included Katy Perry singing her hit song “Firework” and a performance by Pitbull, according to media reports.
The family also organized a mass wedding for more than 50 underprivileged couples on July 2 as part of the celebrations.
Last week, Justin Bieber performed for hundreds of guests at a pre-wedding concert that included performances by Bollywood stars Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh and Salman Khan.
Ambani also made headlines in 2018 when Beyoncé performed at pre-wedding festivities for his daughter. Former US Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.


The Democratic Party crisis after Biden’s debate spirals with no clear ending

The Democratic Party crisis after Biden’s debate spirals with no clear ending
Updated 13 July 2024
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The Democratic Party crisis after Biden’s debate spirals with no clear ending

The Democratic Party crisis after Biden’s debate spirals with no clear ending
  • Donors and high-profile endorsers are repudiating Biden, and some top Democrats are pondering whether to make a move against him
  • Biden insists he will not step down. And indeed, other delegates say they’re firmly behind the president

NEW YORK: For more than two weeks now, the Democratic Party has been mired in crisis. And yet there is no sign that the threat to Joe Biden’s reelection is nearing a conclusion, as the president digs in and a growing chorus of Democratic officials, donors and strategists calls for him to step aside.
Donors and high-profile endorsers are repudiating Biden, morale inside and outside the campaign is weak, and some top Democrats are pondering whether to make a move against the embattled president. One of Biden’s allies privately described a cycle of alternating hope and despair in the style of the movie “Groundhog Day.”
The extraordinary intra-party debate still rages 15 days after Biden’s disastrous debate performance, with the president’s Thursday news conference doing little to quell fears about his prospects against Republican Donald Trump. Another five Democratic members of Congress called on Biden to step aside in the hours since the president’s high-profile press conference, bringing to nearly 20 the total number of Democratic US representatives and senators publicly pushing Biden to leave the race.
Biden’s acknowledgment Thursday that delegates were free to vote their conscience at the party’s August convention — or in a virtual roll call vote that could come much sooner — sparked a new wave of urgent conversations among Democratic officials on Friday.
“I’m in that box of delegates who are really reconsidering if they’re going to cast their vote for President Biden,” said Joe Salazar, a Democratic National Committee member from Colorado.
Biden insists he will not step down. And indeed, other delegates say they’re firmly behind the president.
The president’s team is aggressively pushing back against a collection of new data shared among Democratic officials in recent days arguing that he’s now at a considerable disadvantage in his bid to defeat Trump in November. In fact, fear is pervasive among donors and strategists working on House and Senate races that Biden’s weak standing could undermine the party’s outlook even in blue states.
Hours after his campaign issued a new strategy memo announcing a renewed focus on three pivotal Midwestern states — the so-called “Blue Wall” that has long been must-win for Democrats — one of the campaign’s field organizers in Wisconsin quit.
The lower-level staffer’s departure, announced during an internal staff conference call Thursday, was attributed directly to post-debate frustration, according to two people familiar with the matter granted anonymity to share details of the private discussion. A Biden campaign spokesperson confirmed the staff departure.
While one person leaving a campaign of more than 1,000 people isn’t proof of a larger exodus, other signs of trouble continued to pop up.
One lawmaker, Rep. Mike Levin of California, told Biden directly on Friday that he should step down in a virtual call hosted for members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
The call began with Biden soliciting feedback on how to appeal to the Hispanic vote and what campaign events he should join over the next few months. When the call was opened to questions, Levin raised his hand to give Biden a talk about his Southern California district, with voters telling him that the president should not be on top of the party’s ticket for 2024.
Levin, according to two of the people, then encouraged the president to listen to those constituents and step down.
“I have deep respect for President Biden’s five-plus decades of public service and incredible appreciation for the work we’ve done together these last three and a half years,” the lawmaker said in a statement. “But I believe the time has come for President Biden to pass the torch.”
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries issued a letter to his caucus on Friday describing a private meeting he had the night before with Biden. Notably, he did not include any endorsement of the president in the brief letter.
“In my conversation with President Biden, I directly expressed the full breadth of insight, heartfelt perspectives and conclusions about the path forward that the caucus has shared in our recent time together,” Jeffries wrote.
A private debate is playing out among the party’s donor class in particular, which is far from united on whether Vice President Kamala Harris should inherit the nomination should Biden ultimately step aside, according to conversations with more than a half-dozen donors granted anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Some donors believe Biden still offers the best chance of defeating Trump, despite Democratic voters expressing widespread doubts in polling about his age and readiness.
That’s even as fundraisers are being canceled and some larger donors refuse to fund any Democratic campaigns until Biden is no longer the nominee. Others are putting money behind political action committees aimed at supporting down-ballot candidates who have openly called for Biden to step aside.
Others would prefer an open convention that would allow hundreds of delegates gathered in Chicago next month to select the nominee from a collection of top-tier prospects that also includes California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, among others.
But Harris, who is the first woman, Black woman and person of Asian descent to serve as vice president, commands deep loyalty from key Democratic constituencies. Even if donors persuaded someone to run in a potential open primary, that candidate would be in a position of challenging and trying to sideline someone who has set those historic firsts.
The Biden-Harris campaign is in a position of implicitly undercutting Harris’ prospects to protect Biden’s.
Biden’s campaign chair Jen O’Malley Dillon released a memo Thursday conceding “increased anxiety” within the party, although she suggested that movement against the president, “while real, is not a sea-change in the state of the race.”
And O’Malley Dillon wrote that there is “no indication that other Democratic candidates would outperform the president against Trump.”
Salazar, the DNC member from Colorado, declined to say whether there was an organized effort among delegates to rally behind another presidential nominee when asked. But he criticized DNC leadership in Washington for declining to answer key logistical questions about how or when delegates could nominate a Biden replacement should they wish to.
Biden’s nomination could be sealed in a matter of days due to a virtual roll call that would make him the nominee well before the convention opens Aug. 19. The DNC originally set up the virtual roll call to preempt an Ohio ballot requirement that could have kept Biden off the ballot there.
Ohio has since changed its law. But despite numerous inquiries from The Associated Press and other media, the DNC won’t say whether it will keep the virtual roll call or when it will hold it.
The virtual vote to make Biden the nominee could be as soon as July 19, Salazar said, although a DNC spokesperson said the vote could not take place before July 21.
Meanwhile, Trump’s fundraising is surging. And the presumptive Republican nominee has only just begun to spend on television advertising, while Biden has poured tens of millions of dollars into battleground-state advertising in recent months.
Biden’s allies are hoping for a respite in the coming days with the Republican National Convention opening Monday in Milwaukee.
Republican National Committee Chair Michael Whatley said the GOP was prepared to win this fall regardless of whether Biden steps out of the race or not.
“I think if Kamala Harris steps in, she is going to run on the exact same platform that Joe Biden has been running on, and it is a failed platform based on failed policies that have really hurt American families,” he said. “The Democratic Party is in complete disarray.”
 


Scholz says US long-range missiles in Germany to help ‘securing peace’

Scholz says US long-range missiles in Germany to help ‘securing peace’
Updated 13 July 2024
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Scholz says US long-range missiles in Germany to help ‘securing peace’

Scholz says US long-range missiles in Germany to help ‘securing peace’
  • Germany's chancellor defended the decision after Moscow warned that it was pushing Russia and the West toward a Cold War-style confrontation
  • NATO countries are rushing to bolster their defenses on the continent in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine

WASHINGTON: Chancellor Olaf Scholz has hailed a decision from the United States to periodically station long-range missiles in Germany as a step to increase deterrence against Russia.
Washington’s move marks a return of US cruise missiles to Germany after a 20-year absence, and has sparked criticism even among members of Scholz’s Social Democrats.
The Kremlin also said the decision to station US missiles in Germany was pushing Russia and the West toward a Cold War-style confrontation.
Defending the decision, Scholz told reporters at a NATO summit in Washington it is “something of deterrence and it’s securing peace, and it is a necessary and important decision at the right time.”
The United States on Wednesday said the “episodic deployments” of long-range missiles to Germany will begin in 2026.
The White House said it would eventually look to permanently station them in Germany, and the missiles would “have significantly longer range” than current US systems in Europe.
“Exercising these advanced capabilities will demonstrate the United States’ commitment to NATO and its contributions to European integrated deterrence,” it said in a joint statement with the German government.
The missile decision signalled “steady steps toward the Cold War,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a state TV reporter.
“All the attributes of the Cold War with the direct confrontation are returning,” Peskov said.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk the deployment decision addressed a “very serious gap” in the country’s capabilities.
The German army does not have long-range missiles that launch from the ground, only cruise missiles that can be fired by aircraft.
But the announcement sparked an outcry in Germany, where the deployment of US missiles brings back painful memories of the Cold War.
Ralf Stegner, an MP for Scholz’s Social Democrats, said the missile decision could signal the start of a new “arms race.”
“This will not make the world safer. On the contrary, we are entering a spiral in which the world is becoming increasingly dangerous,” warned Stegner.
Sahra Wagenknecht, a prominent far-left figure in Germany, told the Spiegel weekly that US missile deployment “increases the danger that Germany itself will become a theater of war.”
The 1980s deployment of US Pershing ballistic missiles in West Germany at the height of the Cold War prompted widespread demonstrations, with hundreds of thousands coming out in pacifist protest.
US missiles continued to be stationed through the reunification of Germany and into the 1990s.
Following the end of the Cold War, the US significantly reduced the numbers of missiles stationed in Europe as the threat from Moscow receded.
But NATO countries — spearheaded by the US — are rushing to bolster their defenses on the continent in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
 


Musk donates to group working to elect Trump, Bloomberg reports

Musk donates to group working to elect Trump, Bloomberg reports
Updated 13 July 2024
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Musk donates to group working to elect Trump, Bloomberg reports

Musk donates to group working to elect Trump, Bloomberg reports

WASHINGTON, July 12 : Billionaire Elon Musk, who has been ramping up criticism of US President Joe Biden, has donated to a political group working to elect rival presidential candidate Donald Trump, Bloomberg reported on Friday, citing sources.
The report did not indicate how much Musk donated but added it was “a sizable amount” given to a group called America PAC.
Bloomberg reported that the PAC — a group that can receive unlimited contributions for political activity — is next required to disclose its list of donors on July 15.
In March, Trump, a former US President who is expected to be formally nominated next week as the Republican Party’s candidate for the Nov. 5 election, met with Musk and other wealthy donors.
In response to reports of the meeting, South Africa-born Musk posted on X: “Just to be super clear, I am not donating money to either candidate for US President.” In May, he also denied media reports that there had been talks over a potential advisory role for him in any Trump presidency.
Musk, the world’s richest person who runs electric car maker Tesla, rocket maker SpaceX, social media company X and other companies, did not respond to Reuters’ request for comments.
Musk in recent years has more fully embraced the Republican Party, which has weighed on the reputation and sales of Tesla, the biggest source of his wealth.
Trump last month reiterated his pledge to immediately abandon the Biden administration’s “mandate” to support the electric vehicle industry. But he added: “I’m a big fan of electric cars. I’m a fan of Elon.”
“He does an incredible job with Tesla.”
Musk said they had “some conversations” and Trump is a “huge fan of the Cybertrucks,” referring to Tesla’s electric pickup trucks.
While he has publicly criticized Biden’s policies on immigration and electric vehicles and even his age, Musk has not made any formal endorsement in November’s contest and Trump has said he did not know if he has Musk’s support.
He has also endorsed antisemitic comments on X, though Musk has denied being antisemitic.
Musk’s views have hurt his standing among some consumers, according to a CivicScience survey shown exclusively to Reuters.