In an appeal for calm and restraint in Iraq after Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced he was quitting politics on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges all “relevant actors” to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and avoid any violence.
Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson of the Secretary-General, in the statement, said that the UN chief strongly urges all parties and actors to rise above their differences. “The Secretary-General has been following with concern the ongoing protests in Iraq today, during which demonstrators entered government buildings. He is particularly concerned about reports of casualties. “He appeals for calm and restraint, and urges all relevant actors to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation and avoid any violence,” the statement read.
“The Secretary-General strongly urges all parties and actors to rise above their differences and to engage, without further delay, in a peaceful and inclusive dialogue on a constructive way forward,” it further stated.
Chaos erupted in Iraq’s capital Baghdad soon after an Iraqi Shi’ite cleric announced he was quitting politics on Monday with thousands of his followers storming Iraq’s presidential palace, resulting in the deaths of two people. Nineteen people were injured during the clashes between al-Sadr supporters and security forces in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and several of them were hit by tear gas and stun grenades as they stormed the government palace in Baghdad, according to Russia Today. The Shi’ite cleric announced his resignation from politics on Monday, following which military reinforcements were sent to the presidential palace as the followers of Al Sadr tore down cement barriers outside the government building in support of the cleric. An immediate curfew was put in place right after as palace security was unable to control the mass of demonstrators. Earlier in July, numerous Iraqi demonstrators, mostly supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, stormed the heavily fortified parliament building in Baghdad to protest against the nomination for prime minister by rival Iran-backed parties. The protesters were opposing the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for the post of Prime Minister, as they believed him to be too close to Iran. Notably, Al-Sadr’s bloc won 73 seats in Iraq’s October 2021 election, making it the largest faction in the 329-seat parliament; but, ever since the vote, talks to form a new government have stalled, and Al-Sadr stepped down from the political process.Article 3/8
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Pak Army, Taliban involved in narco trade, reveals NATO probe
The unholy nexus of the Pakistan Army and the Taliban’s involvement in the narco trade was revealed by the NATO Defence Education Enhancement Program (DEEP) report.
According to this 2022 report titled “Narco-Insecurity, Inc, the convergence of Pakistan and Afghanistan narco-trade was made possible with the help of Pakistan’s military spy agency the ISI, which launched several covert operations with sympathetic jihadist groups, all of whom relied heavily on narcotics trafficking to fund their operations,” reported South Asia Press.
The illegal narcotics trade constitutes one of the main financial sources of the insurgency groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but, more importantly, it feeds narco-terror, globally.
Moreover, Af-Pak heroin networks, drug lords and their nexus with the Taliban and Pakistani military present a principal impediment to security, state-building, and democratic governance in Afghanistan and the region.
Pakistan’s role in drug proliferation is validated by a number of arrests of its nationals in other countries on charges of drug trafficking.
It is reported that Pakistan has established smuggling networks over the last years into India – and especially within the Kashmir valley – so as to ensure a steady supply of narcotics and weapons, reported South Asia Press.
The central aim of this NATO academic report written by David R Winston is to analyse the growth of the narcotics industry stemming from Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and the nexus that has formed between narcotics trafficking and terrorism.
The Taliban have long used narcotics as their main source of revenue. Without the poppy crop, they may never have grown to be the massive organisation that they are today that was capable of toppling the Ghani government, as per the writer.
With the control of Afghanistan by the Taliban last year, the terror group has acquired control over the opium cultivation in the country, reported South Asia Press.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) November 2021 Report, Afghanistan accounted for around 85 per cent of global opium production in the year 2020 and supplied approximately 80 per cent of the world’s opium consumers.
The total value of opiates (opium, morphine, and heroin) was 9 per cent to 14 per cent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. Methamphetamine and cannabis are two other major drugs which have expanded production in Afghanistan in recent years, reported South Asia Press.
Fighter jets escort Singapore Airlines plane amid bomb hoax, man arrested
A 37-year-old male passenger was arrested Wednesday for allegedly making a hoax bomb threat on board a plane travelling from San Francisco to Changi Airport, which forced the Singapore Air Force to scramble two fighter jets, a media report said.
The two fighter jets escorted the Singapore Airlines plane until it landed safely at Changi Airport at 5:50 am local time, CNN reported. “Earlier today, two of our F16C/Ds were activated to escort a Singapore Airlines flight that departed San Francisco for Singapore. This was because of a suspected bomb threat on board the aircraft,” the Singapore Air Force said. “Our fighters escorted the airliner till it landed safely at Changi Airport.”
The report said teams from the army’s chemical, biological, radiological and explosives defence group and airport police division were on site to verify the claim. Defence Ministry officials, who discovered the bomb threat to be false, said the army was “mobilized immediately.”
Pak-Afghan ties take a nasty turn over Durand line conflict
The border conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan over Durand Line that divides not just the two countries but also the Pashtuns remains a bone of contention between the two nations, however, both chose to remain silent on several issues related to human rights.
According to Al Arabiya, the growing rancour between the two countries was manifested in a recent incident on September 19, wherein Afghan security guards posted at Pakistan Consulate, Jalalabad mistreated Pakistan diplomats. They also stopped the President and two members of the Nangarhar Chamber of Commerce from meeting the Pak Consulate General.
The Durand Line passes through the present-day Pakistani provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (NWFP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan.
It also includes 10 provinces in Afghanistan. Disputed in the context of the struggle for the Pashtun homeland, it has of late become the cause of heightened border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to reports.
While Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of harbouring anti-Pakistan elements, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on its soil, the Taliban do not recognize the Durand Line which separates the two countries and divides the home of ethnic Pashtuns.
Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021, Pakistan has been trying to persuade the Afghan Taliban to crack down on TTP. Instead, the Afghan Taliban mediated talks between Pakistan and TTP that led to the release of dozens of TTP prisoners in Pakistan, reported Al Arabiya.
Islamabad was partly optimistic in the wake of the Taliban takeover. It hoped that the Taliban regime would accept the Durand Line’s legitimacy and leverage its links with the proscribed organization Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to broker a peace agreement.
While Taliban links have facilitated Islamabad-TTP talks, which led to a ceasefire, the Taliban seems reluctant to apply total pressure on the TTP. The Taliban is also in no mood to grant any concessions on the issue, given that skirmishes between themselves and Pakistani troops continue.
In the wake of this, there have been repeated reports of firing and clashes between the security forces of the two countries at the border.
Recently footage of the Taliban forces driving into Pakistan’s side of the Durand line surfaced on social media.
In quest for power, China opens illegal police posts across globe
In a quest to emerge as a global superpower, the Chinese government has opened numerous illegal police stations across the world including in developed countries like Canada and Ireland, triggering concerns among human rights campaigners.
Such informal police service stations affiliated with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) across Canada have been set up to antagonize China’s adversaries, Investigative Journalism Reportika stated citing the local media. According to local media reports, Fuzhou has established informal police service stations affiliated with the Public Security Bureau (PSB) across Canada.
At least three of these stations are located in the Greater Toronto Area only.
Moreover, the Chinese government is also influencing the elections in certain countries through these illegal police stations, according to Investigative Journalism Reportika.
The Fuzhou police say it has already opened 30 such stations in 21 countries.
Countries like Ukraine, France, Spain, Germany, and the UK have such arrangements for Chinese Police Stations and the leaders of most of these countries question the rise of China and its worsening human rights records on public platforms and are themselves a part of that issue.
Human rights campaigners have accused the ruling Communist Party of China of committing widespread abuses across the country in the name of security, steps which include confining people to internment camps, forcibly separating families and carrying out forced sterilization.
For its part, China has said these facilities are “vocational skills training centres” that are necessary to “counter” extremism and improve livelihoods. Chinese officials said in late 2019 that most “trainees” had “graduated” from the centres.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet recently visited China and Xinjiang.
Complete loyalty to Xi sole criterion for party Congress delegates’ election
Ahead of the 20th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) due to take place on October 16, the CCP completed the process of carefully selecting 2,296 loyal delegates to the Congress on the basis of complete loyalty to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
This was done to ensure a trouble-free and dissent-free approval of the third term of power to Xi, reported The HK Post. These delegates will represent more than 96 million party members and more than 4.9 million grass-roots party organizations, “bear the ardent expectations of the people of all ethnic groups in the country, and honourably attend the party’s twentieth national congress”
The party bigwigs are happy that it will not face any problems from the elected delegates when the political, economic and international resolutions are put to vote, reported The HK Post.
The agenda says, “(they) meet the requirements stipulated by the CPC Central Committee, are highly qualified ideologically and politically, possess and demonstrate good work styles and moral conduct, are competent in discussing state affairs, and have made remarkable achievements in their work.”
Meanwhile, Xinhua in its reports left none in doubt that principles of democracy were conspicuous by their absence when the selection process was underway, reported The HK Post.
“Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the delegates were elected in accordance with the Party Constitution, the CPC Central Committee’s requirements, adopting methods required by the CPC Central Committee. The process upheld the Party’s nature and purpose, adhered to and enhanced the Party’s overall leadership, and fully embodied intraparty democracy.”
An editorial in the People’s Daily issues a sermon to the delegates that their duty begins and ends with expressing loyalty to President and General Secretary Xi Jinping.
“Take the lead to deeply understand the decisive significance of the Two Establishments, strengthen the ‘four consciousness’ and ‘four self-confidence’, in order to achieve the two safeguards; study and implement the spirit of the important speech of General Secretary Xi Jinping at the symposium for leading cadres at the provincial and ministerial levels on July 26; study, understand and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era;’ organically combine Party history study with understanding ideas around strengthening Party spirit; strengthen ideals and beliefs, continuously enhance political judgement, understanding, and execution, and maintain a high degree of consistency with the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core in terms of ideology, politics, and actions.”
Patience is running out, says UN envoy on engagement with Taliban
Patience is running out for many in the international community when it comes to effectively engaging with the Taliban, the UN deputy representative for Afghanistan Markus Potzel, told the Security Council on Tuesday.
Despite some positive developments over the past few months, the senior UN envoy for the country said they have been “too few and too slow and the negatives outweigh them”. “I am afraid that patience is running out by many in the international community regarding a strategy of engagement with Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities,” he said.
Potzel drew attention to the ongoing ban on girls’ secondary education and growing restrictions on women’s rights, as “signals that the Taliban are indifferent to more than 50 per cent of the population” and are willing to risk international isolation. “The relegation of women and girls to the home not only deprives them of their rights, but Afghanistan as a whole is denied the benefit of the significant contributions that women and girls have to offer,” he detailed.
This comes as armed clashes and deadly terrorist attacks have spiked in the country.
“Our earlier warnings about the capabilities of Islamic State Khorosan Province (ISKP) were dismissed by the Taliban,” he told ambassadors. “But ISKP has demonstrated in the last few months alone that it can carry out assassinations of figures close to the Taliban, attacks against foreign embassies, as well as fire rockets across Afghanistan’s border to attack its neighbours – all while maintaining its long-standing sectarian campaign against Shia Muslims and ethnic minorities,” said Potzel. And armed clashes are continuing between Taliban security forces and armed opposition groups in the Panjshir, Baghlan, Kapisa, Takhar, and Badakhshan provinces, the UN envoy continued.
“There are disturbing reports, as well as videos and photos, indicating possible serious human rights violations committed in Panjshir,” he said, calling for an investigation into allegations of extra-judicial killings there. He added that the mission will continue to carefully monitor these and other reports of serious human rights violations.
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