Category Archives: World

US diplomat visits Pakistan to discuss peace in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: A top diplomat from President Donald Trump‘s administration met with the Pakistani army chief to discuss how to ensure peace in Afghanistan following a recent cease-fire between the Taliban and Kabul, officials said Wednesday.

Alice Wells, US deputy assistant secretary of state, met with Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Pakistan is believed to have played a role in ensuring the first truce in Afghanistan’s brutal 17-year war when Kabul and insurgents separately but peacefully celebrated the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that follows the holy month of Ramadan. However, violence later resumed.

Wells’ visit, which took place Tuesday, came after Afghanistan stepped up efforts at finding a peaceful settlement, weeks after a U.S. drone missile killed Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah in Afghanistan

Bajwa recently visited Kabul, where he met with the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and his counterpart to assure them of Islamabad’s full support in reviving peace process between Kabul and the Taliban.

Kabul’s envoy to Islamabad, Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal, also met with Bajwa at his office in the garrison city of Rawalpindi and discussed the security situation in Afghanistan and other “matters of mutual interest,” according to a military statement Wednesday.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have witnessed ups and downs in recent years, with both sides accusing each other of not taking action against Islamic militants linked to violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But frequent meetings in recent weeks between high officials on both sides indicate significant improvement in relations between the two neighbors that are key allies of the United States in the war on terror.

Hafiz Saeed launches intense election campaign across Pakistan

LAHORE: Mumbai attack mastermind and banned Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed has launched an intense election campaign in different parts of Pakistan urging people to vote for his candidates in the July 25 general elections to safeguard the two-nation ideology and avert a water crisis.

Saeed inaugurated the election offices of the Milli Muslim League (MML), the political wing of the JuD, in Lahore, Islamabad, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Faisalabad and Jhang and addressed rallies there during the last one week.

The appeal he is making in his speeches is “vote for those who can stop India from building dams on Pakistani rivers so that Pakistan do not face water crisis in days to come, safeguard the two-nation ideology and help Kashmiris to get freedom and make the country a strong citadel of Islam”.

Saeed also promises to provide a “new political leadership’ that will change the destiny of Pakistan.

“We have decided to enter the political arena to make Pakistan stronger. We are not running our election campaign in a conventional way…,” he said while addressing the MML activists at the JuD headquarters in Lahore today.

He said politicians have made politics a “profitable business,” but the MML will not.

“We will not do business after getting elected. We have to fight Pakistan’s case. We have to stop foreign interference in our matters and liberate its influence,” he said, asking the people not to vote for those (PML-N) that did not stop India from building dams on Pakistani rivers.

As the MML has failed to get registered as a political party with the Election Commission of Pakistan, its candidates are contesting on the platform of a little known outfit Allah-u-Akbar Tahreek (AAT).

Hafiz Saeed ‘s son, son-in-law and 13 women are among 265 JuD candidates contesting on AAT platform in July 25 general elections on national and provincial assemblies seats across Pakistan.

Saeed, who also carries a $10 million American bounty on his head for his role in terror activities, is not contesting the election.

The JuD had formed MML when Saeed was under detention by the Punjab government in Lahore. Saeed and his four aides – Abdullah Ubaid, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Hussain – were placed under house arrest in Lahore on January 30 under anti- terrorism act.

The JuD was declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014. The group is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group that carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack.

Europe, China, Russia to meet Iran on Friday in Vienna

BEIJING/BRUSSELS : Foreign ministers from China, France, Germany, Britain and Russia will meet with Iranian officials on Friday in Vienna to discuss how to keep a 2015 nuclear accord alive after US President Donald Trump abandoned the pact in May.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini confirmed the meeting in a statement on Wednesday after Iranian state news agency IRNA announced the meeting a day earlier.

China’s foreign minister and state councillor, Wang Yi, said he would go to Vienna, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would take part.

Iran requested the meeting, IRNA and European diplomats said, to discuss European efforts to salvage the international nuclear pact in the face of Trump’s May 8 decision to revive Iran-related sanctions, after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods.

The sanctions start to come into effect in August but some European companies investing in Iran and with big operations in the United States have announced they will pull out of business deals with Tehran.

The European Commission is proposing that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid US penalties, but detailed plans have yet to emerge.

The European Union, once Iran’s biggest oil importer, is determined to save the nuclear accord by keeping money flowing to Tehran as long as Iran complies with the 2015 deal to prevent it from developing an atomic weapon.

Iran arrests 'Sultan of Coins' suspected of hoarding gold

Iran arrests ‘Sultan of Coins’ suspected of hoarding gold – Times of India

AP | Jul 4, 2018, 18:36 IST

TEHRAN: Iranian state TV says police have arrested a man who was hoarding two tons of gold coins in order to manipulate the market.

The report quotes Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Rahimi as saying the 58-year-old suspect had accomplices who helped him collect the coins over the past 10 months.

He did not identify the suspect, who state media referred to as the “Sultan of Coins.” Two tons would be the equivalent of around 250,000 coins.

Iranians have stocked up on gold coins and other safe haven investments as the local currency has plummeted in recent months. The Iranian rial has plunged to 90,000 to the dollar – double the government rate of 42,000.

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Encroachment: Pak SC suspends HC's order to summon ISI chief

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday suspended Islamabad High Court (HC)’s order to summon the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief for refusing to vacate the land encroached by the spy agency around its headquarters in the capital city.

Last Friday, the Islamabad HC had summoned the ISI Chief Naveed Mukhter and Defence Secretary Zamir-ul-Hassan Shah to appear before it on July 4. The ISI closed the road by installing barricades, citing security threats, in 2005 when the country was ruled by military dictator Pervez Musharraf.

Following the HC order, the defence ministry filed a petition against it in the apex court, seeking four to six weeks to plan alternate security arrangements and exemption for director-general ISI to appear in person before the court. During the hearing, the defence secretary also challenged the HC’s directive, arguing that it did not have the authority or jurisdiction to take up suo motu notices and rule on such matters.

In agreement with the petitioner’s argument that the discretion for suo-motu did not lie with high courts, a three-member bench of the SC headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar accepted both requests of the defence secretary but directed the spy agency to specify a date by which it would remove the blockades from the main road.

The chief justice ordered Deputy Attorney General Nayab Gardezi to ask the ISI why it had erected blockades on Khayaban-i-Suharwardy, a road which is part of Islamabad’s master plan.

“We have already given orders against encroachment on public land all over Pakistan, and the ISI is not exempted from it,” Justice Nisar said. “Call the ISI chief and ask why the road has not been opened for public use despite court orders,” he asked. This is the second time that the SC has taken notice of the matter.

Ex-Malaysian PM Najib Razak charged with corruption

KUALA LUMPUR: Just eight weeks after losing an election, former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak was charged on Wednesday with abuse of power and criminal breach of trust in an investigation over billions of dollars missing from a state fund.

Najib pleaded not guilty, but the charges, the first of their kind faced by a Malaysian premier, and his court appearance were the culmination of a swift and stunning downfall for the man who led the country for nearly a decade.

“I believe in my innocence and this is the best chance to clear my name,” Najib told reporters outside the courtroom after being released on bail of 1 million ringgit ($247,000).

Crowds of journalists and onlookers jostled for a glance of Najib, and some of his backers chanted and held up placards in support of a man whose father, Malaysia’s second prime minister, is held in high regard.

National television networks broadcast live images of Najib’s convoy moving through morning rush-hour traffic to the court in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, an extraordinary spectacle few could have imagined before the May 9 election upset.

Najib thwarted corruption allegations for three years after revelations in 2015 that hundreds of millions of dollars from troubled state fund 1MDB were diverted to his personal accounts.

But his life has unravelled since the election defeat by his one-time mentor and the country’s most seasoned politician, Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to the prime minister’s office he occupied from 1981 to 2003.

Mahathir reopened an investigation into the fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and barred Najib from leaving the country. Wednesday’s charges fulfilled an election promise to prosecute Najib, whom he called a “thief” during the campaign.

Najib has been charged with abuse of power and three counts of criminal breach of trust, each of the four charges carrying prison terms of up to 20 years. The abuse of power charge also carries a fine of five times the “value of gratification”.

He was ordered to surrender his passports and the judge set the trial for Feb. 18 next year.

Wednesday’s charges relate to funds of about 42 million ringgit ($10.4 million) that allegedly went from SRC International, a former 1MDB unit, into Najib’s personal bank account.

This represents a small fraction of the $4.5 billion the U.S. Department of Justice has said was misappropriated from 1MDB, which is being investigated in at least six countries on suspicion of money laundering.

Malaysia’s attorney general indicated there could be more charges in the case as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission continues its investigations.

SRC has been the initial focus of Malaysian investigators as all the suspicious transactions involving it went through Malaysian entities, unlike other 1MDB-related transactions that went through foreign banks and companies.

The judge imposed a temporary gag order to stop public discussion of the case. Najib’s lawyers have said their client has been dragged through a trial by the media.

FAMILY QUESTIONED

Najib entered parliament at 23 and attained the top job in 2009, setting up 1MDB shortly after, but his second term in office was plagued by allegations about the fund.

Mahathir, who helped Najib’s political ascent before turning on him as the accusations surfaced, led a campaign to unseat him, appealing to voters’ disgust with a government apparently mired in corruption.

Mahathir told Reuters last month that embezzlement and bribery using government money were among the charges being considered against Najib, adding that his former protege was fully responsible for the 1MDB scandal.

Since the election loss, investigators have seized luxury handbags, jewellery and other items worth nearly $275 million from properties linked to Najib’s family.

His wife Rosmah Mansor and stepson Riza Aziz have also been questioned. Riza is the co-founder of Red Granite Pictures, a company U.S. prosecutors say financed three Hollywood films, including the 2013 Martin Scorsese movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, with funds misappropriated from 1MDB.

Najib must be held accountable, said Anwar Ibrahim, the prime-minister-in-waiting and former opposition leader.

“Because of the allegations against him regarding 1MDB, he must be held accountable in court,” Anwar told reporters in neighbouring Indonesia.

In a pre-recorded message posted on Twitter after his arrest on Tuesday, Najib said he was not perfect and “not all the accusations against me and my family are true.”

Top Hong Kong court grants UK lesbian right to spousal visa

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s top court ruled on Wednesday that a British lesbian should be granted a spousal visa in a landmark judgment that could open the door for expatriate same-sex partners to move to the Chinese-ruled city.

The British woman, who requested to be identified only as QT in court, sued the director of immigration in 2014 after she was denied a spousal visa that would have granted her resident status and allowed her to work without the need for a separate visa.

The woman and her partner, a dual British and South African national identified only as SS and who was offered work in Hong Kong, had entered into a civil partnership in Britain. QT did not appear in court.

“Although I cannot be with you in person today, that does not diminish the joy I feel, knowing that Hong Kong’s highest court has upheld my right, as a lesbian woman, to be treated equally by the Hong Kong government,” QT said in a statement.

She plans to live in Hong Kong, instead of flying back and forth to Britain as she has been doing for years.

“I won’t feel like a second citizen anymore and I can have the basic rights like anyone else, from as simple as having a library card to having healthcare,” she told reporters by phone.

The unanimous ruling by five judges, upholding a lower court’s decision, brings to an end the case involving rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which won support from more than 30 global banks and law firms, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

“This ruling strengthens Hong Kong’s ability to attract global talent and its competitiveness as Asia’s pre-eminent global centre for commerce,” the companies said in a statement.

The decision goes beyond immigration and effectively recognises the rights of local and foreign same-sex couples who legally entered civil partnerships abroad, said the British woman’s lawyer, Michael Vidler.

“We never argued this case is about same-sex marriage for Hong Kong, but we hope this case will pave the way for exactly that,” he said outside the Court of Final Appeal.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department said it respected the ruling.

“We are studying the judgment carefully and shall seek legal advice as necessary before deciding the way forward,” it said.

“SHAKY FOUNDATIONS”

Hong Kong could become the first Asian jurisdiction to officially grant dependent visas to same-sex partners, even though it already makes some exceptions to diplomats.

Foreign diplomats in mainland China also say the Chinese government has been issuing de facto spousal visas to same-sex partners in recent years.

Although Taiwan set a precedent in Asia last year when its constitutional court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to legally marry, gay marriage has not been legalised yet.

An official website stated that same-sex spouses do not qualify as spouses for immigration purposes.

Japan does not officially grant dependent visas to same-sex couples, but some married foreign couples say they managed to get one.

Hong Kong is a popular destination for expatriates, many of whom work in the city’s financial services and legal sectors.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1991, although marriage is legally defined as a monogamous union between a man and a woman. It does not recognise same-sex marriage.

There is no law against sexual discrimination in the territory which is governed under a “one country, two systems” formula that promises it a high degree of autonomy, a legal system separate from that of mainland China and an independent judiciary.

In a 45-page judgment, the judges said the director of immigration’s assertion that an obvious difference existed between marriage and a civil partnership rested on “shaky foundations”.

The court also said that while the director of immigration’s policy aimed to attract foreign talent, the act of rejecting same-sex partners was counter-productive.

It had not allowed the 31 global banks and law firms’ to join in the court case, but acknowledged their effort in the judgment.

“As is evident from the attempted intervention of the banks and law firms, the ability to bring in dependants is an important issue for persons deciding whether to move to Hong Kong,” it said.

Veteran LGBT activist Billy Leung, who arrived at court with a small rainbow flag, said he knew at least six same-sex couples who had chosen not to move to Hong Kong or had left the city in the past five years over what they described as a lack of LGBT-friendly policies.

“The struggle is real,” he said.

Australian leader calls on convicted archbishop to resign

Australian leader calls on convicted archbishop to resign – Times of India

AP | Jul 4, 2018, 14:56 IST

Archbishop Philip Wilson arrives at Newcastle local court, in Newcastle on June 19, 2018. (AP photo)Archbishop Philip Wilson arrives at Newcastle local court, in Newcastle on June 19, 2018. (AP photo)
CANBERRA (AUSTRALIA): Australia’s prime minister has called on an Australian archbishop to resign after becoming the most senior Roman Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson was sentenced in a Newcastle court on Tuesday to 12 months in detention for failing to report to police the repeated abuse of two altar boys by a pedophile priest north of Sydney during the 1970s.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Wednesday he was surprised that Wilson had not resigned when he was convicted in May.

The Adelaide Archdiocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday

Wilson stood down from his position as archbishop days after he was convicted in May. He has not said whether he was considering an appeal.

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Fresh navy video shows Thai cave boys in 'good health'

MAE SAI: A new video released Wednesday filmed in the bowels of a northern Thai cave showed members of a trapped football team laughing as they greet the camera to say they are in good health after their astonishing discovery by divers.
The footage, published by the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page, runs by 11 of the 13 members of the team, each makes a traditional Thai greeting gesture to the camera before introducing themselves by nickname and saying “I’m in good health”.

Several of the boys in the frame are wearing protective foil blankets and are accompanied by a smiling diver in a wetsuit.

The one-minute clip ends on a jovial note, with one of the 12 young footballers saying he was forgotten in the round of introductions, sparking laughter.

thai graphix

The boys appear relaxed and much more alert than when they were when discovered late Monday by British divers, as they took shelter from surging underground waters on a muddy ledge.

Several Navy SEAL divers have deployed along with medics, while the complex process of evacuating the “Wild Boar” team begins.

Fresh navy video shows Thai cave boys in “good health”

MAE SAI: A new video released Wednesday filmed in the bowels of a northern Thai cave showed members of a trapped football team laughing as they greet the camera to say they are in good health after their astonishing discovery by divers.
The footage, published by the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page, runs by 11 of the 13 members of the team, each makes a traditional Thai greeting gesture to the camera before introducing themselves by nickname and saying “I’m in good health”.

Several of the boys in the frame are wearing protective foil blankets and are accompanied by a smiling diver in a wetsuit.

thai graphix

The one-minute clip ends on a jovial note, with one of the 12 young footballers saying he was forgotten in the round of introductions, sparking laughter.

The boys appear relaxed and much more alert than when they were when discovered late Monday by British divers, as they took shelter from surging underground waters on a muddy ledge.

Several Navy SEAL divers have deployed along with medics, while the complex process of evacuating the “Wild Boar” team begins.