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Patel, Priyanka episodes raise question mark on Congress’ functioning

While Ahmed Patel is left to fight ED’s action on his own, Priyanka gets party support on eviction notice.

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Last week, two incidents rocked the Congress and the “First Family”, both. First, the questioning of Congress party’s treasurer Ahmed Patel by Enforcement Directorate (ED) at his New Delhi residence and second, eviction notice to party’s general secretary and interim president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, with regard to a government bungalow allotted to her in Lutyens Delhi.

The Congress’ official stands in both the cases raised many eyebrows about internal functioning of the party. The party neither released any official statement nor was seen standing with the main crisis manager and close confidant of Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, as he was left on his own to fight both legally and politically against the ED’s action in connection with a moneylaundering case involving Sterling Biotech Ltd, a company promoted by the absconding Sandesara brothers.

On the contrary, when the Urban Development Ministry served a notice to Priyanka for vacating the Lutyens’ bungalow within a month, the Congress official spokespersons reacted within no time and accused the Narendra Modi government for “trickery and treachery” for its “manipulative attitude” in the name of “changed” threat perception. Twitter was flooded with statements and comments by almost every veteran and senior leader. All were vehemently critical of the Centre’s move in asking Priyanka to vacate a government bungalow which she occupied about 23 years ago.

It is worth mentioning that the party’s official spokesperson reacted to the ED’s action against Ahmed Patel after a couple of days only when the media asked for it repeatedly. Rahul Gandhi chose to keep silent in this case and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra took several days to respond.

The probe agency questioned 70-year-old Patel for three days – 27 June, 30 June and 4July — in different sessions for a total of 27 hours at his residence since the latter refused to go to the ED office citing Covid-19 guidelines. At the end of the questioning by the ED, Patel himself had to face television crews waiting outside his official residence. Patel told journalists that it was a political vendetta and harassment against him and his family.

Only four senior leaders, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath, former Union Minister Kapil Sibal and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda, came to the rescue of Ahmed Patel.

On the other hand, the hue and cry made by almost every Congress leader on Priyanka’s bungalow issue has left several questions unanswered. If Priyanka would have vacated the house at the time of SPG’s withdrawal, it would add to the Congress’ old narrative of “sacrifices by Gandhis”, sources say. It is a laid-down procedure that Priyanka has lost the right to have Lutyens’ bungalow as neither has she any position in the government nor is she an elected public representative, sources add.

Moreover, if all is well in the party, any Congress MP could have offered his/her official house for Priyanka in central Delhi. Now the party leaders are saying that Priyanka will shift to Lucknow, while her close ones say that she will handle the politics of Uttar Pradesh from Delhi itself. She will only use the Lucknow house as a base for meeting with party workers.

This “internal drama” that unfolded in the last 10 days reflected badly on the party’s official set up consisting mostly of Rahul Gandhi loyalists.

If a leader of the stature of Ahmed Patel is abandoned like this, party sources say, it has raised several serious questions about the Congress’ present and future leadership. Senior Congress leaders are not reacting openly, but in private conversation, they admit that they are not happy with the internal handling of the party affairs. Rahul Gandhi’s strategy to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly on issues of national security has not been perceived as a wise move by several senior leaders.

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MACRON CALLS BENNETT ON ALLEGATIONS OF SNOOPING

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JERUSALEM: According to a media report, French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken to Israeli PM Naftali Bennett regarding reports that Morocco’s security forces may have used the Pegasus spyware to snoop on his cellphones,.

A global media consortium last week reported that 50,000 cellphone numbers were being spied on using the Pegasus malware, which has been developed by Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group. The mobile phones of French President Macron and 15 members of his government may have been among potential targets, according to a member of the media consortium.

Macron called Bennett on Thursday and asked him to ensure that “the issue was being taken seriously”, Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Saturday evening. The Israeli PM said that the allegations are from a period when he had not assumed office but assured that the required conclusions on the matter will be reached upon. Macron had called an urgent national security meeting on Thursday to discuss the Pegasus spyware after reports about its misuse in France emerged.

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IN A FIRST, SAUDI WOMEN STAND GUARD IN MECCA

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MECCA: Dozens of female soldiers have become a part of the security services that monitor pilgrims in Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam. This is a significant stride towards women empowerment.

For the first time, Saudi female soldiers are standing guard in Mecca as thousands of Muslim pilgrims take part in this year’s Hajj, as per Deutsche Welle report.

Women dressed in military khaki uniforms were seen monitoring the security situation in the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Along with khaki, they were sporting a hip-length jacket, loose trousers, and a black beret over a veil covering their hair. While adhering to Covid-19 protocols, thousands of vaccinated Muslim pilgrims gathered at Mecca to perform Hajj.

According to Al Jazeera, 10,000 vaccinated Muslim pilgrims circled Islam’s holiest site in Mecca last Sunday, but remained socially distanced and wore masks as the Coronavirus takes its toll on the Hajj for a second year running.

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63 dead, 5 missing in China’s flood-hit Henan

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HENAN: The death toll from the heavy rains and floods that hit China’s central province of Henan has risen to 63, while five people remain missing as of Sunday.

More than 852,000 people were relocated. Some 876.6 thousand hectares of crops were affected and 24,474 houses collapsed, reported Global Times. Torrential rains have battered Henan province since last weekend. Several videos surfaced on social media showing the severity of the flooding.

Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of 12 million people, is one of the worst-hit areas.

Zhengzhou’s meteorological station has described the level of rainfall as “once in a thousand years.”

Henan’s water resources department, meanwhile, has called rain levels in parts of the province “once in 5,000 years.”

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XI JINPING MEETS TOP MILITARY OFFICIALS IN LHASA

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Chinese President Xi Jinping, 68, made his first official visit to Tibet from Wednesday to Friday. But his important visit was kept under wraps by China’s official media till the end of the tour on Friday due to the sensitivities of the trip.

Xi underlined the importance of long-term stability and prosperity in Tibet during a meeting with top military officials in Lhasa, the state media reported on Saturday, a day after he made aunannounced visit to the strategically important region, including to Nyingchi, a town close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh.

Xi, who is also General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, met top officials of the Tibet Military Command of the People’s Liberation Army, guarding China’s border with India in Arunachal Pradesh, and also called for “fully strengthening the work of training soldiers and war preparation,” as per the CPC-run tabloid Global Times report.

As part of his trip, he first went to Nyingchi, a strategically located town close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh. On Thursday, Xi went to Nyingchi Railway Station. It was the first time in recent years, a top Chinese leader visited the Tibetan border town. From there he went to the provincial capital Lhasa by the recently launched high-speed train.

He wound up his visit to the politically sensitive Himalayan region on Friday by meeting “representatives of troops stationed in Tibet”.

“Xi met with representatives of troops stationed in Tibet, calling for efforts to strengthen military training and preparedness in all aspects and make contributions to the lasting stability, prosperity and development of Tibet,” as per the state-run Xinhua news agency report.

However, the Global Times said that Xi, in his meeting with the PLA representatives, stressed “the local troops should fully strengthen the work of training soldiers and war preparation and contribute positive strength to promote the long-term stability and prosperity of Tibet”.

Xi’s first visit to Tibet took place amidst the current India-China military tensions in eastern Ladakh.

According to Xinhua, Xi visited the Tibet Autonomous Region in connection with the 70th anniversary of Tibet’s “peaceful liberation the first time in the history of the Party and the country.”

He extended congratulations to the 70th anniversary of Tibet’s peaceful liberation, visited officials and ordinary people of various ethnic groups and conveyed the CPC Central Committee’s care to them, the report said.

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CHINA DISMANTLING PEACE IN AFGHAN BY COLLUDING WITH PAK, TALIBAN: COLUMNIST

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New Delhi: A columnist from Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Ganderbali, on Sunday, blamed China for dismantling peace in Afghanistan by collaborating with Pakistan and supporting the Taliban. Ganderbali tweeted,“China is trying to dismantle peace in the region by collaborating With Pakistan and supporting Taliban, all this at a time when peace and civilian rule of democracy was getting restored in the great nation of Afghanistan. The adventures of Pak-China will kill stability for Afghan.” He often writes in a Pakistani Newspaper Pakistan Christian Post highlighting the plights of the Christian minority in the country. Ganderbali is also the founder of Peace and Justice Forum.

With the US troops’ drawdown from Afghanistan on the verge of completion, a new terror axis is emerging in the Afghan-Pak geopolitical theatre with the convergence of interests between Pakistan and China. Amid the Taliban’s increasing grip over Afghanistan, Pakistan has dropped all pretensions of being an ally of the US led-western countries despite the much-needed American safety net on key issues that have a direct impact on its economy, wrote Fabien Baussart in The Times of Israel.

“We will no longer allow China’s Uyghur separatist fighters (from Xinjiang),” Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a widely circulated interview. Taliban spokesperson admitted that some Uyghur had previously sought refuge in Afghanistan. He, however, promised not to host them.

According to Baussart, the Taliban can be as duplicitous as their patrons. “Well, China may hope to leverage its money power against any likelihood of a breach in the promise by the Taliban; such a hope, even after its Pakistan experience, exposes its inability not to look beyond the nose.” From all accounts, he stated that China seeks to fill the unfolding void in Afghanistan. “It is ready with cash and weapons that the Taliban may need in case the nationalist forces try to checkmate its expansion within the country.”

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INDIA AND PAKISTAN NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO RESOLVE BILATERAL ISSUES: US

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WASHINGTON: The United States has said that India and Pakistan need to work with each other to resolve their bilateral issues, observing that it had always encouraged the two neighbours to build a more stable relationship going forward. “With regard to India-Pakistan, I would just note that we strongly believe that India and Pakistan’s issues are ones for them to work out between themselves,” .

During a conference call on Friday, Dean Thompson, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs told reporters, “We are pleased to see that the ceasefire that went into place earlier this year is — has remained intact, and we certainly always encourage them to continue their efforts to find ways to build a more stable relationship going forward.” Thompson said this in response to a question. —Correspondent

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