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Pakistan nod to take Nawaz Sharif off ‘no-fly’ list



ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday agreed to remove former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name from the no-fly list to enable him to seek medical treatment abroad, on the condition that he deposits security bonds. The government has not yet specified whether the bond would be in the form of cash or any other asset.
Imprisoned since July 2018 for corruption, Sharif was shifted to the hospital from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail last month after being diagnosed with an immune system disorder. His condition turned critical after the platelet count dropped to a dangerous level and doctors warned about his deteriorating health. Subsequently, the Lahore and Islamabad high courts granted him bail in two separate graft cases on medical grounds.
On Tuesday, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said an air ambulance will arrive in Lahore on Wednesday to take Nawaz Sharif out of the country for treatment. Doctors will use steroids and other medicines to normalise his platelet count to ensure safe travel. According to doctors, the sooner Sharif moves out of Pakistan, the better it will be for his health, she added.
Last week, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and Sharif’s younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, had sent a request to the home ministry and the country’s anti-corruption watchdog for the removal of the former PM’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL) so that he could travel abroad for medical treatment.
For the past few days, a section of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had been pressuring PM Imran Khan to disallow Sharif from going abroad, saying it would be a complete defeat of the government’s accountability narrative. Another section of PTI, however, believes that Sharif’s departure would be politically beneficial — as was done in Musharraf’s case by sending him abroad and then ruling the country for the next five years.



Complaint about fake how-to-vote cards preferencing Peter Dutton rejected | Australia news




The Australian Electoral Commission rejected a complaint about fake how-to-vote cards for independent and minor parties that directed preferences to Peter Dutton because they informed voters how to cast their first preference vote correctly.

The revelations are contained in a submission by Benedict Coyne, the Greens candidate for Dutton’s seat of Dickson, who had complained to a parliamentary inquiry into the May election.

The submission cites Channel Seven reporting that on election day volunteers wearing maroon shirts distributed cards urging voters to “vote for Queensland” with instructions on “how to vote for a minor party or independent”. The cards suggested candidate orders for voters of the Greens, United Australia party and One Nation parties, among others. All permutations placed Dutton above Labor’s Ali France.

The cards were authorised by Warwick Armstrong, from a redacted address which Coyne submitted had a Dutton corflute out front on election day.

The AEC also sought to share responsibility for the issue with the police, which it said had twice chosen not to investigate similar complaints of unauthorised how-to-vote cards siphoning second preferences to non-preferred candidates.

𝕤𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟𝕥𝕙𝕒 𝕞𝕒𝕚𝕕𝕖𝕟

What’s the story with these how to vote cards being handed out all over Dickson how to vote “independent” but preference for @PeterDutton_MP number 2 ? Get Up has complained to @AusElectoralCom as they are authorised by a bloke worth a …Dutton signage in his front yard

May 18, 2019

Coyne submitted that his official how-to-vote cards directed voters to put France third, after the Animal Justice party, and ahead of Dutton, ranked fifth, and the unauthorised material was therefore “completely contradictory”.

Coyne submitted that the unauthorised how-to-vote cards may breach section 329 of the Electoral Act, which prohibits material that misleads and deceives voters about the process of casting their vote.

Coyne complained that his preference flows were “misrepresented and exploited as part of what seemed a somewhat elaborate and coordinated campaign to ensure the vote of the incumbent LNP candidate Peter Dutton”.

Dutton won Dickson with a primary vote of 45.9% after receiving 54.64% of the two-party-preferred vote, with a 2.95% swing in his favour.

Coyne’s submission included an email the AEC wrote to a Dickson independent candidate, Thor Prohaska, on 22 May explaining why it did not take action against the material.

The AEC wrote that although it became aware of the material at 10.10am on election day after a complaint from GetUp, it formed the view it was “clear that this was not an official [how to vote] card” authorised by the listed candidates.

“The AEC is of the view that images of the [how to vote] card in this instance did not mislead voters about marking their first preferences for the candidates of their choice,” it said.

“The issue of false second preference vote directions is rather more complex.”

The AEC noted a breach of section 329 is a criminal offence, requiring investigation by the Australian federal police and referral to the commonwealth director of public prosecutions.

“On at least two previous occasions the AEC has made a referral of second preference [how-to-vote] cards that differed from the officially endorsed [how-to-vote] card to the AFP for investigation,” it said.

“On both occasions the AFP has refused to accept the referral on the basis that the disparity between the official and the fake second preferences listed was apparent on the face of the card and that the elector still marked a valid first preference vote in accordance with their intentions.

“The AEC formed the view that the [how-to-vote card in this instance would fall within the previous approach taken by the AFP and would not be progressed for criminal action.”

Coyne submitted that section 329 is directed at conduct “influencing the way in which a ballot paper is actually marked” and therefore applies “notwithstanding the first preferences are accurate” on the Armstrong how-to-vote card.

He suggested “all subsequent preferences are not only misleading and inaccurate but seek to benefit a particular candidate in a coordinated, organised and mischievous way” and it would therefore be “absurd” if this were not considered a breach.

“It is unclear why the AFP has taken no action and I would encourage the [joint standing committee on electoral matters] to obtain a response from the AFP on this issue.”

At its first public hearing in the 2019 election inquiry on Friday, the AEC submitted that it lacked the resources and powers to investigate the opaque funding used to spread political ads on Facebook.

In written submissions the inquiry has heard from civil society groups calling for spending caps on elections, the Coalition calling for a shorter pre-poll period, and Labor, which wants social media giants subjected to more scrutiny for failing to take down false material.


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In Myanmar Army’s Corner, Aung San Suu Kyi Will Defend It in Genocide Case




BANGKOK — She could have stayed home.

Nobody is forcing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — she of the Nobel Peace Prize and fragrant flowers in her hair — to stride into the International Court of Justice on Tuesday at The Hague, where she will lead Myanmar’s defense against accusations of genocide.

After all, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi spent decades battling the same military generals accused of perpetrating mass atrocities against Myanmar’s minority Rohingya Muslims. Just a few years ago, the onetime democracy activist, who serves as Myanmar’s foreign minister and de facto civilian leader, visited the halls of power in Western Europe to preach the virtues of nonviolent resistance against a military dictatorship.

This time, her mission is very different. From Tuesday to Thursday, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi will shield Myanmar in public hearings at the International Court of Justice, where the country is being accused of trying todestroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the systematic destruction by fire of their villages, often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses.”

The three days of public hearings at The Hague beginning on Tuesday will not address the merits of the case, which was brought by Gambia on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Instead, the court proceedings will focus on so-called provisional measures that could be used to order protection for the half a million Rohingya still living in Myanmar.

For days, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s fans have gathered across Myanmar for rallies of support.

To them, the expulsion of Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine State in far western Myanmar, a campaign so vicious that United Nations officials have laden it with genocidal intent, simply did not happen.

“Western opinion seems to be against Myanmar in the Rakhine case because the information they get from the international news has led to a misunderstanding,” said U Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy. “They need to know more about the real situation on the ground and the history of the country.”

Mr. Myo Nyunt said no mass atrocities had taken place against the Rohingya, apart from isolated bouts of killings in two villages. Instead, he said that the international community has ignored the deaths of dozens of Hindus in Rakhine State at the hands of what the Myanmar authorities say were Rohingya insurgents.

International human rights groups estimate that thousands of Rohingya have been massacred by the military and mobs of Buddhist villagers since 2017.

“We are trying our best not to harm anyone in the country just because of their religion,” Mr. Myo Nyunt said.

In Myanmar, the international effort to punish those responsible, forwarded by Gambia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, is viewed by many as a plot by oil-rich sheikhs to upend a peaceful Buddhist nation.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters hope that she, with her Oxford University pedigree and crisp English, can clear up any confusion and persuade the judges at the International Court of Justice to reject the case against Myanmar, just as she once rallied foreign resistance to the country’s repressive military junta.

“There is no one better than Aung San Suu Kyi in terms of wisdom and experience,” said U So Bhi Ta, a Buddhist monk in the city of Mandalay. “She is the one who can face the world bravely.”

“I believe that she will bring the real news to overcome the fake news from the Western media,” he added.

Her boost in popularity is well timed for the National League for Democracy, which is facing its first re-election campaign since its landslide victory four years ago.

Economic overhauls have stalled. Fighting with various ethnic groups has flared in the nation’s borderlands. Representatives of the Shan ethnic group, which is battling Myanmar’s military in the north, released a statement on Monday saying that they “strongly support the international legal cases being brought against Burma’s military leaders, who have authorized atrocities against the country’s ethnic peoples for decades with impunity.”

Myanmar was formerly known as Burma.

At such a sensitive time, the patriotic fervor surrounding Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to the International Court of Justice could burnish the governing party, even if she loses luster outside Myanmar, analysts said.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to The Hague is definitely related to the 2020 election,” said Khun Gamani, a social researcher. “I think she is desperate to get the Burmese Army’s recognition and deference.”

“This aggressive populism will render sustainable peace and reconciliation inside Myanmar even more for impossible,” said Sawangwongse Yawnghwe, an artist and activist whose grandfather was the country’s first president. “It’s all for short-term gain and winning next year’s election, but the impact of what her government is doing now will be felt for generations to come.”

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters said that she is not necessarily walking in lock step with the nation’s military, which is known as the Tatmadaw. Myanmar’s delicate power-sharing structure means that any contrary move by the pro-democracy camp could push the military further out of the barracks, they said.

“She is not going to The Hague because she is on the same side as the Tatmadaw,” said Mr. Myo Nyunt, the National League for Democracy spokesman. “It’s more like a parent taking responsibility for his or her kid’s problems.”

But critics said that had Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi used her moral eloquence to defend persecuted ethnic minorities, the virulent hatred of the Rohingya in Myanmar would not have become as acceptable as it now is.

“The military and Aung San Suu Kyi’s denials are not only crude attempts to cover up atrocities but the ugly rhetoric does harm to survivors,” said Matthew Smith, co-founder of Fortify Rights, a rights advocacy group. “It contributes to the destruction as a group. This is all by design.”

Most Rohingya remaining in Myanmar are interned in camps or confined to their villages, with no freedom of movement or access to basic services. In its court submissions, Gambia said this population faced “grave danger of further genocidal acts.”

Elsewhere, the Rohingya who now live in the largest refugee settlement in the world, a sprawl of mud and shacks in Bangladesh, have been told that their encampments will soon be enclosed by barbed-wire fencing. Internet access has slowed since local telecommunications firms were ordered by the Bangladeshi government not to provide coverage to those without proper papers.

In their flimsy shelters, the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh can do little but depend on judicial deliberations a continent away.

“We are quite sure that Aung San Suu Kyi will not tell the truth at the court and will try to protect herself and the military,” said Alam Shah, a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh. “We trust the international lawyers and we hope they will not join hands with the perpetrators.”

Hannah Beech reported from Bangkok, and Saw Nang from Mandalay, Myanmar. Marlise Simons contributed reporting from The Hague.


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Blanketed in ash, no survivors: Paramedic describes New Zealand volcano devastation




(Reuters) – A paramedic who flew to help victims of the New Zealand volcanic eruption said on Tuesday what he saw was a “shocking experience”, likening the scene on White Island to the recent TV drama mini-series “Chernobyl”.

“Everything was just blanketed in ash. It was quite an overwhelming feeling,” said Russell Clark.

The intensive care paramedic works with the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter emergency service, which was sent to Whakatane to assist in the rescue efforts. Whakatane, on the North Island’s east coast, is the main base for tours to White Island, about 50 km (30 miles) off the coast.

Clark said they had received reports of a number of casualties and multiple patients in boats as they flew to the island, and saw a heavily damaged helicopter as they arrived there.

“We were getting status updates so we knew there were high-acuity patients, very, very critical patients,” he said.

“We didn’t find any survivors on the island. And it was … It would’ve been quite traumatic for them.”

Around 30 people were earlier evacuated from the island, many with burns. Five people died and a further eight were missing, presumed dead a day after the eruption.

Tourists from Australia, the United States, Britain, China and Malaysia as well as New Zealanders were among the missing and injured, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the media earlier.

Writing by Karishma Singh. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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