An United Nations fact-finding body has found evidence of a “widespread and systematic” attack on civilians in Myanmar in the wake of the military coup in February, which it said amounts to crimes against humanity.
Nicholas Koumjian, head of a fact-finding body established by the UN Human Rights Council on Friday briefed journalists on its work to collect, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes committed in the country. The mechanism was created two years ago and prepares files that can facilitate criminal prosecutions in national, regional and international tribunals, UN News reported.
While its mandate covers the period from 2011, “our work has faced new challenges and opportunities due to the military coup and the subsequent events that have occurred,” said Koumjian. “We announced soon after the coup that the coup itself is not within our mandate. Issues of constitutionality, of change of leadership, of elections, is not a serious international crime within our mandate,” he said, speaking in New York. “However, being aware of the history of political violence in Myanmar, we were concerned, and we would be watching and collecting evidence if such crimes occur.”
The mechanism has received more than 200,000 communications since the coup, and has collected more than 1.5 million items of evidence, such as photographs, videos, testimonies and social media posts, UN News reported.
“We do feel now having observed the events and collected preliminary evidence that the facts show a widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population amounting to crimes against humanity,” Koumjian said.
He added the mechanism noted certain patterns in the violence, which is how it determined the crimes appeared to be a widespread and systemic attack on civilians, given that members had no access to Myanmar.
Koumjian reported that during the first six weeks of the coup, security forces took a “measured response” towards demonstrations. However, later there was an “uptick in violence”, with more violent methods used to suppress protestors, and which was taking place in different areas at the same time, “indicating to us it would be logical to conclude this was from a central policy.”
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Taliban expands interim cabinet, appoints 25 more
The Taliban has declared the extended interim cabinet in Kabul where they added more than two dozen members who are given the post of ministers and deputy ministers in the government. Local media reports quoted Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the interim government, that the appointments in the interim government had been made on the orders from Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.
Among the prominent appointees includes Mohammad Abbas Akhund who has been appointed as acting minister of disaster management and Maulvi Ezatullah who has been appointed as the deputy chief of the Supreme Audit Office.
As many as 25 others have been appointed as deputy ministers, corps commanders, and heads of independent departments.
The new names in the interim cabinet of Islamic Emirate – Mullah Mohammad Abbas Akhund minister of Disaster Management; Haji Mullah Mohammad Esa Akhund, deputy minister of disaster management; Maulvi Shahabuddin Delavar, acting minister of mines and petroleum; Maulvi Qudratullah Jamal, Supreme Audit Office head; Maulvi Ezatullah, deputy chief of the Supreme Audit Office; Maulvi Mohammad Yousef Mastari, acting director of prisons; Mullah Habibullah Fazli, deputy director of prisons; Maulvi Keramatullah Akhundzadah, head of the Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission; Maulvi Ahmad Taha, deputy minister of border and tribal affairs; Maulvi Gul Zarin, head of Kochi affairs at the Ministry of Border and Tribal Affairs; Maulvi Hamdullah Zahed, procurement director; Sheikh Abdul Rahim, deputy director of procurement;; Sheikh Maulvi Abdul Hakim, deputy minister of martyr and disabled affairs; Maulvi Saeed Ahmad Shahidkhel, Mullah Faizullah Akhund, deputy minister of youth affairs at the Ministry of Information and Culture; Maulvi Saifuddin Tayeb, deputy minister of communications; Maulvi Fathullah Mansour, head of Kandahar airport; Mohammad Ismail, executive commander of the Military Court; Maulvi Esmatullah Asim, deputy head of the Red Cross; Maulvi Rahimullah Mahmoud; deputy minister of education; Maulvi Abdul Rahman Halim, deputy minister of rural rehabilitation and development; Maulvi Atiqullah Azizi, deputy minister of finance and administration at the Ministry of Information and Culture; Mullah Faizullah Akhund, deputy minister of youth affairs at the Ministry of Information and Culture; Maulvi Saifuddin Tayeb, deputy minister of communications; Maulvi Fathullah Mansour, head of Kandahar airport; Mohammad Ismail, executive commander of the Military Court; Maulvi Esmatullah Asim, deputy head of the Red Cross; Maulvi Rahimullah Mahmoud, deputy commander of the Al-Badar Corps in Kandahar; Maulvi Abdul Samad, deputy commander of Azam Corps in Helmand; Mullah Nasser Akhund, deputy minister of finance; and Maulvi Arefullah Aref, deputy minister of energy and water.
The Taliban took over Kabul from the US-backed Ashraf Ghani administration in August. Since then the country is facing an acute crisis with civil servants unpaid for months and the treasury unable to pay for imports bills. Afghanistan, a country strategically located in South Asia has been seeing instability for the last 40 years— a period that started with an invasion by the erstwhile Soviet Union in the late 1970s and ended with the withdrawal of the United States-led NATO troops on August 31.
China continues with propaganda over Covid-19
China has resorted to all types of propaganda techniques to shift the blame for the origin of the COVID-19 using different conspiracy theories through political statements, state-run news media, social media as well as using rap songs.
The latest conspiracy story blames lobsters from the US. A news article claimed a cargo containing 55 boxes of Boston lobsters, which had landed in Shanghai on November 11, 2019, maybe responsible for the origin of COVID-19. The news portal named Sina said the traceability of coronavirus pointed at the cold chain of US seafood products, The HK Post reported. “Therefore, it is entirely possible for the virus to attach to the cold chain packaging of this batch of seafood products in the United States and enter the South China seafood market,” reads the article.
China has been denying the reports that coronavirus leaked from the laboratory in Wuhan. Meanwhile, in November 2020, Chinese authorities had claimed that coronavirus was found on the shrimps imported from Saudi Arabia.
Earlier, China also suspended beef imports from Brazil. The state-run Global Times said the Brazilian beef sent to the Wuhan market was found with active coronavirus, The HK Post reported.
Beijing has even blamed the US military for leaking coronavirus into China.
Zhao Lijian spokesperson for the Chinese foreign affairs ministry said “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”, The HK Post reported.
It further reported that another such spokesperson Hua Chunying demanded that a team of international experts including the World Health Organisation (WHO) be allowed to inspect the biological lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland.
The propaganda to frame the US was aimed at diverting blame from China as most of the world population believed Wuhan was the origin of the coronavirus. “Right after the Wuhan lab leak became a credible hypothesis in the US, official media in China basically doubled down on allegations that a US military lab could be the origin point of the pandemic,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow at New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. The Wuhan Lab is very close to the Wuhan wet market, which is considered as the source of COVID-19, The HK Post reported.
PAKISTAN JOINS HANDS WITH TALIBAN TO DESTROY AFGHAN IDENTITY, CULTURE: FORMER PAK SENATOR
A former senator of Pakistan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has accused Islamabad of joining hands with the Taliban to “destroy” Afghan identity and its culture.
In an interview with the Amsterdam-based European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), Afrasiab Khattak, who is also a Pashtun rights activist said,
“Pakistan expanded into Afghanistan through its strategic depth policy. During the Afghan civil war, the Pakistani military establishment, aided by the US and the Arab Gulf States, enrolled Afghan refugees in Pakistani madrassas to brainwash them with extremist Islamist ideologies”. Khattak believes that these measures were aimed at ultimately emphasising the Afghans’ Muslim identity over their identity as Afghans and Pashtuns, and thereby deconstructing the Afghan/Pashtun component of their communal identity.
The Taliban, according to Khattak, were thus programmed to destroy Afghan identity and thereby serve the Pakistani military establishment’s aim of ultimately transforming Afghanistan into a cultural extension of Pakistan.
From the late 1980s onwards, this strategic depth policy was also expanded towards India’s Jammu & Kashmir. Here too, the identity of Kashmiris as Muslims was and is prioritised over other identity markers.
However, as Khattak argued, this is a “suicidal policy” for Pakistan, because while Pakistan invests all its efforts in militarisation, its economic development eventually deteriorates. While Pakistan has the potential of becoming even a regional economic power, this strategic policy of Talibanisation has hindered its socio-economic development.
He further criticised Pakistan for historically using Afghan refugees as a political tool and turning these refugees into members of the Taliban against Kabul when relations with respective Afghan governments were strained. India and Pakistan, he argued, must reconcile as the staunch anti-Indianism in Pakistan legitimises military rule that in turn undermines democracy.
The same was said for Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan: Pakistan’s high military expenditures, Khattak argued, curtail Pakistan’s political and economic development. The historical role of the Pakistani military establishment embodies the empowered role of the armed forces under colonial rule.
AFGHANISTAN: AROUND 15 INJURED IN BLAST AT MOSQUE IN NANGARHAR
At least 15 people have been injured in a blast that took place on Friday in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, reported local media.
Locals said that the blast was caused by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted in a mosque during prayers at the Shadal Mosque in eastern Nangarhar, Pajhwok Afghan News reported citing a source. Three of the people injured in the blast are in critical condition, Syed Qayum Shinwari, a resident of the area, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
The developments came days after three people were killed and several others sustained injuries in twin blasts in the capital of Nangarhar province.
Meanwhile, Two armed men on Friday killed one person and injured another in an attack in the capital of the northern Kunduz province in Afghanistan.
The armed men attacked shop owners in Kunduz city on Friday, killing one on the spot and injuring another, Xinhua news agency reported citing locals. A provincial government official has confirmed the incident, saying a probe has been initiated into the case.
Separately, another blast was reported in Nangarhar province on Friday, Pajhwok Afghan News reported citing a source
Two explosions went off in Jalalabad city in Nangarhar followed by a shooting incident, Russian news agency Sputnik reported citing an eyewitness on Sunday.
PAK GOVT REMAIN IN DENIAL DESPITE WORSENING ECONOMIC SITUATION
Despite the worsening state of the economy in the country, and rising unemployment, Pakistani authorities remain in denial mode and Prime Minister Imran Khan keeps telling people in his every other address, not to be “disheartened”.
The denial of the authorities continues despite the reports from the World Bank and IMF stating that Pakistan features in the list of 20 countries where inflation is at its peak ranking 6, according to Vernacular media report. This year, the unemployment in Pakistan stands at 9.8 per cent, which is expected to be around 9.4 per cent in 2022.
Despite such figures, Imran Khan said that the country will get over such times.Pakistan will sail through the rough times only when the government takes other experienced politicians and financial experts along with the opposition, reported the vernacular media .
The Imran Khan government has to leave its confrontationist attitude to the Opposition if it wants to regain the trust of the people.
The rate of inflation in Pakistan could lead to unrest and protests against the Imran Khan government.
Imran Khan had vowed to lift people out of poverty before gaining power as he promised the creation of 10 million jobs. Instead, he announced financial support of USD3 billion from Riyadh after his visit to Saudi Arabia last month.
Imran Khan blamed inflation in the international market for the miseries of the people and announced a “relief package” of 120 billion Pakistani rupees providing subsidies on the essential food items, wrote Shah Meer Baloch in The Guardian.
“The package is a drop in the ocean and will do little to help the mass of ordinary people. The pressure on Imran Khan will continue to mount because we have seen further price hikes, such as of fuel and sugar, after the announcement of the package,” The Guardian quoted an economist, Khurram Hussain as saying.
Journalist sentenced to 11 years in prison
A Myanmar military court has sentenced US journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison, media reports said on Friday.
37-years-old Fenster has been detained in Myanmar for more than five months and denied bail, CNN reported. Fenster, who hails from Michigan is being held in Insein Prison in Yangon city, since his May 24 arrest.
The American broadcaster said charges on Fenster include visa breaches, unlawful association with an illegal group and incitement.
He was also given a fine in the local currency equivalent to USD 50. The American journalist is one of about 100 scribes detained since the coup. Around 30 remain behind bars, the CNN report said.
“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year,” said Thomas Kean, editor-in-chief of Frontier Myanmar, one of the country’s top independent news outlets.
“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family.”
According to his lawyer, Fenster was hit with two new criminal charges under the country’s sedition and terrorism laws, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
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