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Pakistan

A game of chance

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Punjab’s senate elections ended in a whimper. The lead up to the election was marked with plenty of hue and cry, angry statements, fears of votes being traded for money and a presidential reference that was sent to the Supreme Court.

Imran Yaqub Khan Profile Imran Yaqub Khan

Strange points were raised, such as a secret ballot that would be traceable and proportional representation was questioned. In the end, however, all members were elected unopposed. Not a single ballot paper was required. Enemies sorted out all matters between themselves.

A more pertinent lesson could not have been derived from the development. Political matters need not be taken to court. The wiliness and slyness that is a necessity in any political arena do not belong in the hallowed halls of law. In fact, they sully the sanctity of judicial houses.

Blots on our history, such as Justice Munir’s Doctrine of Necessity, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s death sentence and Musharaff’s LFO have left deep marks. Future judges tried their best to wash out the stains. They did fade, but did not disappear.

Political chances suit only politicians. If after all the bad blood and trash talk that the opposition and government indulged in before sitting down to settle Punjab’s senate polls, anyone believes that either would not give or take an NRO, is incredibly naïve.

What happened in Punjab can be summarized in one sentence i.e. acceptable names got through, unacceptable ones didn’t. Quetta’s Abdul Qadir is one of the lucky few who have been approved of. When PTI Balochistan members objected to his ticket, Qadir switched over to Bap and became a member overnight. Zahoor Agha was brought in as a salve to soothe bruises but had less longevity than a tissue paper. He recanted right after his papers were filed, abdicating the polls in favor of Abdul Qadir. The chosen one is not selected by party workers, after all.

If not a fluke of chance, then what else can we call the (re)rise of former Premier, Yousuf Raza Gillani. At the center of the political battle that will be waged in the capital, Gillani told Maryam Nawaz that he knew of PTI lawmakers who will give him a vote in return for assurances of PML-N tickets in 2023. Consider that the three parties at the center of this particular smorgasbord are the biggest three in the country. The seekers are from the ruling PTI, the givers are from PML-N and the brokers of the deal are the PPP.

And consider how the Punjab settlement, such as it is, was authored by the PML-Q. With an increased likelihood of both the vote and the note disrupting proceedings, Pervez Elahi took it upon himself to manage affairs and bring them to a conclusion acceptable to everyone. He contacted sympathizers in all the major parties, settled the issue and in the process, managed to get a seat for PML-Q’s Kamil Ali Agha.

As for the contest between Gillani and Hafeez Sheikh, well, it might not be of much surprise to anyone if a few pawns here and there switch sides. This is not unprecedented. Here, parties are broken up and formed anew over a period of just 24 hours. If Gillani wins then of course the doors to a no-confidence move will be opened. And that will end the impression of government and establishment being on the same page. The million dollar question is, will that day finally come to pass?

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World

Egypt hosts dialogue on detention after new wave of arrest

Most of those detained were swept up in a wave of arrests following calls for protests

Published by Samiullah Farid

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Cairo: Egyptian authorities have extended the pretrial detention of at least 125 people and arrested two journalists shortly before holding a national dialogue to discuss pretrial detention policies, rights lawyers and groups say.

Most of those detained were swept up in a wave of arrests following calls for protests on July 12 over economic conditions under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, they said.

Although there were no protests, dozens were arrested from their homes and held on accusations including spreading false news, using social media platforms to promote terrorist ideas, and belonging to a terrorist organization, rights lawyer Nabih El-Genady said.

On Sunday and Monday the public prosecution extended their detention for 15 days, he and another rights lawyer, Khalid Ali, said. The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a rights group, confirmed that at least 125 people were being held.

Authorities have also arrested two journalists in the past week, one a cartoonist for independent news outlet Al-Manassa missing since plain-clothed officers raided his house on Monday, the other a reporter for the Arabic Post new website, said Ali.

Rights groups have long criticised the extensive use of pretrial detention to keep people jailed for years. They say it should be a last resort, not standard procedure.

Egypt's State Information Service said recommendations on pretrial detention from Tuesday's meetings under a national political dialogue launched in April 2022 would be sent to Sisi.

It said calls for protest were issued by members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, describing this as "another desperate attempt by the terrorist group to sow discord within the nation".

Former army chief Sisi came to power after leading the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi, the country's first democratically elected leader, amid protests in 2013. Over the past decade he has overseen a wide crackdown on dissent that has swept up liberals and leftists as well as Islamists.

Officials say the judiciary acts independently and authorities are taking steps on human rights, though critics have dismissed measures as largely cosmetic.

Ahmed al-Sharkawy, a member of parliament who sits on the dialogue's board, said it had facilitated the release of some 1,500 people after years of pretrial detention, including 79 freed on Monday.

"I'm not saying everything is perfect. There are still issues, but we are seeing good results," Sharkawy said.

Others including the Civil Democratic Movement (CDM), a liberal opposition block which suspended its involvement in the dialogue in June over lack of progress, have been more sceptical, especially on the issue of freedom of expression.

"Until the state shows genuine intent to release all prisoners in pretrial detention, there is no point in attending a dialogue session," said CDM co-founder and political scientist Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid.

(Curtsy Reuters)

 

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Earthquake of 4.2 magnitude rattles Balochistan’s Turbat

Seismological Center says the earthquake had a magnitude of 4.2 and a depth of 35km

Published by Hussnain Bhutta

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Quetta: Tremors of an earthquake were felt in the Turbat area of Kech district in Balochistan on Wednesday.

According to the Seismological Centre, the earthquake had a magnitude of 4.2 and a depth of 35 kilometres. The epicentre was 24 kilometres northwest of Turbat.

Due to the earthquake, people came out of their homes reciting the Kalma Tayyiba, and fear and panic spread.

No immediate reports of any casualties or damage have been received from Turbat.

 

 

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World

NATO finds gaping holes in Europe's defences

The alliance's military planners have been focused on assessing the enormous cost of fixing Europe's creaking defences.

Published by Samiullah Farid

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Brussels: The war in Ukraine and the looming U.S. presidential election dominated a NATO summit in Washington this month but, away from the public stage, the alliance's military planners have been focused on assessing the enormous cost of fixing Europe's creaking defences.

NATO leaders agreed plans last year for the biggest overhaul in three decades of its defence capabilities, amid growing fears of Russian aggression. Behind the scenes, officials have since been poring over the minimum defence requirements to achieve those plans, which were sent to national governments in recent weeks, according to one military planner, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The minimum requirements detail the shortfalls in NATO armies in key areas, providing a rough indication of how many billions of euros it could cost to fix, the military planner said. NATO aims to convert these requirements into binding targets for individual governments to provide for the defence of Europe by autumn 2025, when it holds a regular meeting of defence ministers.

Reuters spoke to 12 military and civilian officials in Europe about the classified plans, who outlined six areas the 32-nation alliance has identified as the most pressing to address.

These include shortages in air defences and long-range missiles, troop numbers, ammunition, logistical headaches and a lack of secure digital communications on the battlefield, the conversations with NATO officials showed.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss security matters more freely. NATO hasn't publicly given an estimate of the overall costs.

The findings show NATO faces a slog to achieve its goals at a time when its unity could be tested by budgetary constraints among senior European members, and differences over how hawkish its stance on Russia should be.

Crucially, this year's U.S. presidential election has raised the spectre that NATO's preeminent power may be led by a man critical of the alliance – former President Donald Trump – who has accused European partners of taking advantage of U.S military support.
At the July 9-11 Washington summit, some European policymakers publicly acknowledged that, regardless of who wins November's election, the continent will need to hike its military spending.

"We need to recognize that for America, whatever the result of the presidential election, the priority is increasingly going to shift to the Indo-Pacific, so that the European nations in NATO must do more of the heavy lifting," British Defence Secretary John Healey said on the sidelines of the summit.

In response to Reuters' questions, a NATO official said the alliance's leaders had agreed in Washington that in many cases expenditure beyond 2% of GDP would be needed to remedy shortfalls. He noted that 23 members now meet the 2% mininum requirement, or exceed it.

"Regardless of the outcome of the U.S. elections, European Allies will need to continue to increase their defence capabilities, forces' readiness and ammunition stocks," the NATO official said.

NATO is at its highest alert stage since the Cold War, with its more pessimistic officials, including German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius, warning that an attack by Russia on its borders could happen within five years.

While the Russian economy is already on a war footing, European governments may face resistance if they demand more money for defence spending from taxpayers reeling from a cost-of-living squeeze to prepare for a war that seems a distant prospect to many, analysts say.

"We may expect to see a political backlash materialise, especially if politicians try to explain away cuts elsewhere with increased defence budgets," Eurointelligence, a news and analysis service focused on the EU, said in a July 12 note.

(Curtsy Reuters) 

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