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Afghan govt formation impasse on as rivals prepare to take oath

Hundreds of people had assembled at two venues inside the presidential palace complex to watch the swearing-in ceremonies for President Ashraf Ghani and challenger Abdullah Abdullah, when the blasts were heard, prompting some to flee.

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Ashraf Ghani

Kabul, March 9: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was set to take oath for his second five-year term on Monday amid wrangling with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has threatened a parallel inauguration ceremony.

“The oath-taking ceremony of the elected president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will be held this afternoon,” Efe news quoted Ghani’s spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi as saying in a tweet.

Ghani’s function was originally scheduled early Monday morning at the Presidential Palace in Kabul but was delayed after the two warring sides engaged into a last-minute dialog, mediated by US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to end the stalemate.

Abdullah, however, refused to budge, saying “invalidation of all fraudulent votes” in the September 28, 2019 polls was “the way out” of the impasse.

“No one should have underestimated our commitment to genuine democracy & our resolve to uphold the rule of law. Our track record of self-denial & compromise should not have given cause to anyone to take us for granted,” Abdullah tweeted.

Murtaza Eshraqi, one of Abdullah’s aides, said they were also ready for a planned swearing-in ceremony.

“As the Presidential Palace postponed their oath-taking ceremony till around 2 pm, therefore our ceremony is also postponed,” Eshraqi told Efe news, adding they were informed about the delay in Ghani’s ceremony by Khalilzad.

Another of Abdullah’s aides told Efe that representatives of the two sides “are still in talks to find a solution”. “If they fail to find a way out, we will hold our oath-taking ceremony.”

The dispute over who should rule the war-ravaged nation over the next five years began after the controversial presidential polls last year.

The crisis deepened as the new government was expected to prepare for talks with the Taliban on March 10, as a follow up to the Feb.29 peace agreement between the US and the insurgents over the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

The country’s election commission announced on February 18 that Ghani had won the polls.

But his closest political rival, Chief Executive Abdullah, who was declared the runner-up in the official results, has refused to accept his defeat and claimed victory.

Abdullah’s camp even tried to install governors in some provinces in northern Afghanistan, triggering fears of political instability and a repeat of 2014, when his supporters had held violent protests over electoral results.

On September 28, 2019, only 2.7 million of the 9.6 million people eligible to vote turned out at polling places, a very low turnout rate mainly due to continued threats from the Taliban and people’s mistrust of the electoral process.

Of the total votes cast, 1.92 million were bio-metrically verified and of these only 1.8 million were declared valid by the commission.

Abdullah’s campaign has been alleging since the start of the vote count that some 300,000 fraudulent or suspicious ballots had been cast to favour

Politics

Indian-American wins New Jersey Republican primary

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Rik Mehta

Washington, July 11 : Businessman Rik Mehta has become the first Indian-American to win the Republican primary for New Jersey’s Senate seat, it was reported.

Mehta, a business executive with a law degree and a doctorate in pharmacy, emerged victorious over Hirsh Singh, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2017; Patricia Flanagan of Lawrenceville; Natalie Lynn Rivera of Merchantville; and Eugene Anagnos of East Hanover, india-West news reported on Friday.

Following his win, he will now face Democratic incumbent Senator Cory Booker in November.

According to a New Jersey Globe report, Mehta was leading Hirsh Singh by 12,532 votes, 39 per cent-34 per cent as of Friday.

As of July 8, Singh and Mehta were atop the five-candidate Republican race, with 38.7 per cent and 36.7 per cent, respectively.

Mehta had recently launched his “Made in America” medicines campaign that will require companies to disclose the country of origin of their prescription drugs, the India-West news reported.

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Disaster

11 dead, 23 missing in Nepal landslides

The municipality official said over 400 affected people have been taking shelter at community building and school building in Takam, Marang and Ghantiwang.

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landslides at Myagdi Nepal

Kathmandu, July 11 : Landslides triggered by heavy rainfall have claimed the lives of 11 people in Nepal’s Myagdi district, while search efforts continued on Saturday for 23 missing persons.

“Ten bodies were recovered from Marang while one from Thadakhani. Efforts are on to recover 11 missing from Rikh, Kalleni, Ramche, Namruk and Kamdi, eight from Dule of Malika Rural Municipality-7 and three from Takam,” The Kathmandu Post quoted a municipality official as saying.

District Police Chief DSP Kiran Kunwar said a rescue helicopter is also preparing to fly towards the site with relief materials following improvement in weather conditions in the lower region, informed police.

Around 43 houses have been buried in landslides in the district.

The total loss of physical property has not been ascertained yet.

The municipality official said over 400 affected people have been taking shelter at community building and school building in Takam, Marang and Ghantiwang.

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Politics

Opposition Conservative Party calls for criminal probe into Trudeau’s ties to charity

The call came a day after media reported that WE Charity had financial dealings with Trudeau’s family members.

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Justin Trudeau

Ottawa, July 11 : Canada’s opposition Conservative Party has called for a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to hand almost a billion-dollar program to a charity, which reportedly paid his family a large amount of money to speak at the group’s events.

“Not only did Justin Trudeau not recuse himself from the decision to hand almost a billion dollars to WE Charity, we know now that the organization paid his family almost C$300,000. It is clear that a criminal investigation is warranted. As such, Conservatives will be writing to the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to encourage them pursue this case,” the opposition said in a statement on Friday.

The Conservative Party also alleged that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act that “prohibits public office holders from making any decision or participating in the making of a decision that furthers their private interests or improperly furthers the private interests of another person”, reports Xinhua news agency.

The call came a day after media reported that WE Charity had financial dealings with Trudeau’s family members.

Trudeau”s mother and brother have reportedly been paid a total of C$282,000 to appear at WE Charity events, according to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

CTV reported that Trudeau”s wife received C$1,400 for participating in a WE Charity event in 2012, before the Prime Minister became leader of the ruling Liberal Party.

She currently hosts a podcast for the charity group.

Trudeau and his government have been under fire since the charity was announced as the manager of the Canada Student Service Grant program.

Canadian Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion announced last week that he was investigating into a possible breach of federal conflict of interest act by Trudeau after his government”s decision to award the WE Charity the contract to administer a summer student grant program of C$900 million.

In a statement on Friday, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh said that the hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the trio of Trudeau”s family members were “more than disturbing”, and illustrate a “pattern of behaviour”.

Meanwhile, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet called on the Prime Minister to “step aside” until the completion of the ethics commissioner investigation.

WE Charity announced last week that it was pulling out of administering the program.

Some 35,000 students and recent graduates have applied for the program, which connects them with volunteering opportunities in exchange for payments of between C$1,000 and C$5,000, depending on the number of hours worked.

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