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Russian-led soldiers start withdrawal from Kazakhstan following crackdown

Kazakh president says Russian and allied forces played a very important role in terms of stabilising the situation in the country

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Russian-led soldiers start withdrawal from Kazakhstan following crackdown
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Over 2,000 Russia-led troops began withdrawing from Kazakhstan after being deployed when peaceful protests over an energy price hike turned into unprecedented violence claiming dozens of lives.

The decision to dispatch peacekeepers was a first for the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), often touted by Russia as a NATO equivalent but previously reluctant to interfere in unrest in Central Asia -- a region with long historical ties to Russia.

At a ceremony marking the end of the CSTO mission, soldiers lined up as anthems from each of the six CSTO member countries were played before official speeches began.

"The peacekeeping operation is over ... the tasks have been fulfilled," said Russian General Andrei Serdyukov, commander of the CSTO contingent that saw troops from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan sent to the former Soviet republic on January 6.

The Russian defence ministry said the "collective peacekeeping forces ...are starting to prepare equipment and material for loading into the planes of the military transport aviation of the Russian aerospace forces and returning to the points of permanent deployment".

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Wednesday that Russian and allied forces "played a very important role in terms of stabilising the situation in the country" during his first visit to the country's main city, Almaty.

The financial hub of 1.8 million people was devastated during clashes between security forces and government opponents that gave way to a spree of looting.

Claims of foreign meddling

"Without a doubt, it was of great psychological importance in repelling the aggression of terrorists and bandits. The mission can be considered very successful," he added.

One of the strategic buildings that the CSTO contingent was guarding was Almaty airport, which was reportedly seized by government opponents last week.

The airport's press service said that it was handling both domestic and international flights again on Thursday.

AFP correspondents earlier Thursday witnessed a funeral for a serviceman killed during the clashes which was attended by dozens of soldiers and featured sombre military music.

Tokayev has framed the clashes as a coup attempt assisted by local and international terrorists.

Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin hinted that the violence was reminiscent of "colour revolutions" instigated by foreign meddling.

Those narratives resonated with some residents of Almaty, despite the lack of proof provided by authorities.

'Provoked by West'

Retired engineer Malik Shaimukhambetov blamed the shootouts in his city on "foreign aggression", which he said had subverted state troops and allowed gangs to seize government buildings.

"I see these events as a kind of orange revolution provoked by the West," Shaimukhambetov said, referring to political protests that erupted in Ukraine in 2004.

Tokayev said the phased withdrawal of the foreign troops would take no more than 10 days.

Concern had mounted that Moscow could leverage the mission to shore up its influence in Kazakhstan.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier warned that "once Russians are in your house, it's sometimes very difficult to get them to leave".

Last week's violence in Kazakhstan erupted on the back of peaceful demonstrations over a rise in fuel prices and against a background of deteriorating living standards and endemic corruption.

SOURCE: FRANCE 24/AFP

Faisal Ali Ghumman

Mr. Ghumman is a seasoned journalist who has 19 years of diversified experience in print, electronic and digital media. He has worked with 92 News HD, Daily Pakistan Today, Daily The Business, Daily Dawn, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer as News Reporter, Feature Writer, Editor, Web Content Editor and Article Writer. Mr Ghumman has graduated from the Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan and is currently enrolled in M.Phil in Mass Communication at the University of Punjab.

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Punjab govt notifies summer vacations for schools from June 1

The Punjab School Education department announces two-month vacations

Published by Faisal Ali Ghumman

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Punjab govt notifies summer vacations for schools from June 1

Lahore: The Punjab government issued notification of summer vacations for school kids on Thursday.

All state and private schools will observe a two-month summer vacation from the beginning of next month.

The vacataions for private and public schools will begin on June 1 and continue till July 31, the Punjab School Education Department said in the notification.

The notication has also advised private schools to spare students at 11am from May 27 to May 31 in the wake of ongoing heatwave.

Similarly, summer vacation in all public and private educational institutions in Sindh will be observed from June 1 to July 31.

Public and private educational institutes in Balochistan's summer zone districts are observing summer vacation from May 15 to July 31.

In Khyber Pakhthunkhwa, summer vacation in the summer zone would be observed from June 1 to August 14 and in the winter zone from July 1 to July 31.

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Pakistan

NA passes election amendment bill; scraps electronic voting

Law Minister rejected the impression that the amendment is aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.

Published by Mehak Javed

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NA passes election amendment bill; scraps electronic voting

Islamabad: The National Assembly on Thursday passed "The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022" to conduct pilot projects in bye-elections before using I-Voting and Electronic Voting Machines in the general elections.

Speaking on the occasion in the House, the Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the impression that the amendment is aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.

He said overseas Pakistanis are precious asset of the country and the government does not believe in snatching their right to vote.

Regarding use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), the Law Minister said we are not against use of technology, but we have concerns about misuse of technology as Results Transmission System had failed in last general elections to favour a particular political party.

He said the Election Commission of Pakistan had also expressed its inability to hold elections through I-Voting and EVMs in a short span of time and without proper homework.

He said two amendments are being brought to revive the Elections Act 2017, enabling the ECP to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.

Under the amendment in Section 94 of the Election Act, 2017, the Commission may conduct pilot projects for voting by Overseas Pakistanis in bye-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security, and financial feasibility of such voting and shall share the results with the government, which shall, within 15 days from the commencement of a session of a House after the receipt of the report, lay the same before both Houses of the Parliament.

Under Amendment in Section 103 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for utilization of EVMs and biometric verification system in the bye-elections.

Opposition Leader in the National Assembly, Raja Riaz Ahmed has said the Assembly should complete its tenure and elections should be held on time.

Responding to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's remarks, he assured that the opposition will play its positive and constructive role in running affairs of the House.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while speaking on the floor of the House, congratulated Raja Riaz Ahmed for becoming Leader of the Opposition.

He assured the Leader of the Opposition of his government's full cooperation in running business of the House in an amicable manner.

The Prime Minister said the treasury benches will pay utmost attention to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition by burying the bad traditions of the past.

Responding to a Calling Attention Notice, Minister of State for Interior, Abdul Rehman Khan Kanju assured the House to make every possible effort for the maintenance of government accommodations in Sector G-6 and F-6 of Islamabad.

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World

Death toll from Iran tower block collapse rises to 18

The number of people still trapped under the rubble remains unclear.

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Death toll from Iran tower block collapse rises to 18

Tehran: Iranian authorities announced Thursday that 18 people were killed in the collapse of a building under construction in southwestern Iran, in a new toll after four days of the tragedy. 

On Monday, a large part of the 10-storey "Metropol" building under construction collapsed in Abadan, one of the main cities in Iran's Khuzestan province. The building is located in the middle of one of the busiest streets in the city of 230,000 people.

The number of people still trapped under the rubble remains unclear.

The cause of the collapse, which occurred during a sandstorm, is yet to be ascertained. 

Police, however, arrested the owner of the building and the project manager of the construction company that built it.

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