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Imran party supporters call for Sharif’s death in London

One protester can be heard shouting in the video “some one shoot him” in reference to Nawaz Sharif.

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London/Islamabad, Dec 9 : A group of supporters of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party held a protest outside the London residence of ailing former PM Nawaz Sharif and called for his death by shooting.

According to a report in The News, a group of PTI supporters held a protest outside Avenfield flats in London on Sunday. Sharif, who is in the UK for treatment, is living in the third floor of the Avenfield flats.

One protester called loudly for Sharif’s death by shooting while another called for Taliban-style bombing of the Avengield apartment.

A group of protesters attempted to break down the main gate.

Around 40 protestors, led by Tariq Mehmood, who runs a group called ‘Pakistan Patriotic Front’, raised slogans in support of PTI and many were wearing PTI caps.

However, PTI’s elected body issued a statement distancing itself from the protest.

One protester can be heard shouting in the video “some one shoot him” in reference to Nawaz Sharif.

Another protestor was carrying a poster that read “We cannot wait for the law”, “Avenfield belongs to us to keep”, “Imran Khan is our pride” and “Long live PTI”.

Another protestor called for Taliban-style bombing of the Avenfield apartments and said that casualties in such bombings are normal. One speaker used threatening language for Asif Saeed Khosa, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the daily reported.

Video footage shows at least three protesters banging the front gate in order to break it down, while two protesters entered inside the gate from a side entrance and were asked by the police to leave.

Ahead of the violent protest on Sunday, Tariq Mehmood (also known as Chaduhry Tariq) issued a call asking for the occupation of Avenfield House through violence.

He said in a viral audio message: “It’s our duty to occupy property of these people. This is our right. This property belongs to the people of Pakistan. We are monitoring the whole situation and if needed, we will move in.

“We will move into the Avenfield house in the same way that property of Libyan leader Qaddafi was occupied and the British government took no action against them because the it thought these properties were made with the looted money. For us to occupy these properties, it’s our right because this money belongs to Pakistan.”

Ahead of Nawaz Sharif’s arrival, elected senior official of PTI in UK Soraya Aziz had issued a similar call for violence on Twitter. Soraya Aziz, who is Head of Computing at the Beths Grammar School in Bexley, Kent, said: “For his own safety, I strongly recommend Nawaz Sharif not leave his Avenfield Apartments. If he’s seen shopping in Knightsbridge, overseas Pakistanis will give him response even his few remaining platelets won’t know where to hide!!”

Taqveem Ahsan Siddiqui, in a statement issued earlier on Sunday said: “The PTI has not called for any demonstration outside disqualified Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s residence”.

Siddiqui said: “It has been brought to our attention that an invite to demonstrate outside his residence is in circulation. The PTI UK does not have any intention to call or join any demonstration outside Nawaz Sharif’s residence until he abides by his bail condition.”

Middle East

UN Security Council Rejects US Proposal to Extend Arms Embargo on Iran

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United Nations, Aug 15 : Isolated by its allies, the US has suffered a diplomatic defeat at the UN Security Council (UNSC) which turned down its demand to extend the arms embargo on Iran.

The setback came on Friday, a day after President Donald Trump announced a diplomatic triumph in the Middle East: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) setting up diplomatic relations with Israel in return for its freezing expansion in the West Bank.

Five of Washington’s NATO allies along with six others abstained, while China and Russia voted against the resolution to indefinitely extend the arms embargo that expires on October 18.

Only the Dominican Republic voted with the US.

The results of the remote voting that started on Thursday in the Council that is operating virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic, was announced on Friday.

The defeat was a rebuke to the Trump administration, which unilaterally withdrew from the international agreement with Iran to end its nuclear weapons programme.

Under the 2015 agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the Council and Germany, along with the European Union, Tehran undertook to reduce the amount of uranium it enriches and cut its stockpile of enriched uranium to a level that would prevent it from making nuclear weapons, and take other steps to stop proliferation.

In return, the economic sanctions on Iran were lifted.

Turning down appeals from Washington’s European allies, Trump, however, in 2018 backed out of the deal reached by his predecessor Barack Obama and reimposed economic sanctions on Iran.

Tehran, in turn, began increasing uranium enrichment beyond the level it had agreed to.

By absenting themselves from the vote, the US allies sent a message to Trump reinforcing their opposition to his unilateral action.

Germany’s Deputy Permanent Representative Gunter Sautter said that it was committed to preserving the Iran deal and was working with Britain and France to save it despite US withdrawal and Iran’s actions rolling back the agreement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the vote: “The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defence of international peace and security is inexcusable.

“We will continue to work to ensure that the theocratic terror regime does not have the freedom to purchase and sell weapons that threaten the heart of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.”

While theoretically Iran could buy and sell weapons when the embargo ends in October, the US is counting on using its economic muscle to enforce a unilateral arms embargo as it has in order to ensure that its economic sanctions were followed.

The Trump administration is also counting on the provisions in the Iran deal that would require the reimposition of sanctions if Iran exceeded the limits of uranium production set in the agreement, which it has already done.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of UAE reached an agreement to establish diplomatic relations and it is the only tangible peace development in the Middle East from the initiative overseen by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

It was driven in part by UAE’s fear of Iran and its influence in the region.

Trump said while announcing the agreement that “peace between the Arabs and the Israelis is Iran’s worst nightmare”.

The UAE will become only the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to exchange envoys with Israel.

It has taken 25 years since Jordan’s deal with Israel for another Arab country to follow suit.

But if Israel goes through with the agreement to give up claims on the West Bank, it could lead to other Arab and Muslim countries at odds with Iran normalising ties with Israel, potentially redrawing the region’s geopolitical map.

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Comment: What should India do in response to the US-China Rift?

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US President Donald Trump issued two executive orders on Thursday restricting Chinese social media networks TikTok and WeChat, on the grounds that they pose significant national security threats to the United States. These executive actions set a 45-day deadline to ByteDance, which owns TikTok, and Tencent, owner of WeChat, to sell the two platforms to American companies, or face a complete ban in the US.

ByteDance has already been in talks with Microsoft to sell the US operations of TikTok, an enormously popular video-sharing platform. Now by issuing the executive order, Trump has virtually ensured the certainty of that sale. WeChat, which is mainly used by the Chinese diaspora to communicate with their family members and friends in the mainland and make mobile payments, now faces a more uncertain future in the US.

Trump’s crackdown on TikTok and WeChat, and by extension, Chinese technology and business interests, opens up another front in the President’s on-going confrontation with China, which started with a trade war involving farming, dairy products and other American goods. More recently, the Trump administration has taken actions to restrict Huawei access in the US and the use of government funds to purchase Huawei products and services.

Does this latest phase in the Sino-American confrontation, which began on June 21 with the US ordering the closure of the Chinese consulate general in Houston, and China, in retaliation, closing the US consulate in Chengdu, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, benefit or provide an opportunity for India?

Several analysts in both Washington and New Delhi have observed that it does. It is easy to see the logic behind that argument. In restricting TikTok and WeChat, the US has merely followed India’s footsteps in banning these two and 57 Chinese apps in late June, in response to encroachments by People’s Liberation Army soldiers into Indian territory.

From a geopolitical standpoint, there is no doubt that the current US-China conflict has come at an opportune time for India, which has been engaged in multiple standoffs with China along the border in Ladakh since the beginning of this summer. It once again reinforces the convergence of security interests of India and the US on the China front.

There may be a temptation because of this to escalate the tension with China and in attempt to get concessions in Ladakh. Many armchair warriors have urged Prime Minister Modi to ally with the US and force China to the back foot, to use a cricketing term. Even though New Delhi and Washington have become closer strategic partners, especially in the past two decades, India has never openly aligned with the US on China, despite US pressure to do so.

The historic US-India civil nuclear deal, signed in 2008, was widely seen in Washington as a move to empower India as a bulwark against China. But, much to the frustration of the anti-China hawks in Washington, India has never been comfortable playing that role. This hesitancy continues till today. Notwithstanding calls by many in India and the US to do so, New Delhi has not rushed into Washington’s arms in the wake of the Galwan attack. This appears to be a quite prudent decision.

In any scenario, it is highly unlikely that the US will engage in a full-scale cold war similar to the one it waged with the erstwhile Soviet Union for much of the last half of the 20th century. China doesn’t pose any physical threat to the US, or its European allies, unlike the Soviet Union back then. Economically, the US and China are more integrated than perhaps any two large sovereign nations ever have. Besides being the source of many American goods, China also holds more than $1 trillion worth of US securities.

There is every possibility for a reset in Sino-US relations if Trump loses to Democrat Joe Biden in November. Even if Trump is re-elected, it is unlikely that he will pursue an all-out economic war with China during his second term.

Knowledgeable observers suggest that the immediate provocation for Trump’s TikTok and WeChat restrictions are not geopolitical, but domestic politics. With Covid-19 continuing to ravage the American heartland and the much anticipated US economic recovery not materializing, the President’s re-election prospects have dimmed considerably.

Having spent considerable efforts on boosting the stock market throughout his term, the economy was the primary issue Trump was planning to run on in his re-election bid. But, the impact of Covid-19 has cratered the American economy.

Indeed, the latest job report, released on Friday, revealed that more than 15 million Americans are still unemployed. And, over 30 million are receiving some type of unemployment assistance. These conditions dash any hopes for a meaningful and major economic turnaround before the November election.

In addition, Trump’s failure to develop a national plan and process to contain the spread of Coronavirus has raised serious questions among many voters about his competency. According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, nearly three-fifths of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, and less than two-fifths approve.

Trump can never take the blame or assume responsibility for his own poor performance. In his mind, if he loses the presidency it will be solely because of China and its failure to contain the virus from spreading outside its borders. He began calling Covid-19 the “China virus” in an attempt to deflect attention from himself regarding his failed leadership in managing the response to the pandemic. This deflect and diversion tactic is classic Trump. It explains why the President has chosen the path of escalation with Beijing. It is not a deep-seated ideological or policy-based aversion to the Chinese. It is primarily a personal and politically motivated action taken as part of a re-election gambit.

Given this, India should engage in watchful waiting to see what the next move from Washington and Beijing will be and who will be elected President in the US in November. It should then determine how to proceed. And, do so with caution.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed are personal)

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Coronavirus: Global COVID-19 cases surpass 21mn: Johns Hopkins

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Washington, Aug 15 : The overall number of global coronavirus cases has surpassed the 21 million mark, while the deaths were nearing 763,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Saturday morning, the total number of cases stood at 21,066,992 and the fatalities rose to 762,997, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US accounted for the world’s highest number of infections and fatalities at 5,309,138 and 168,396, respectively, according to the CSSE.

Brazil came in the second place with 3,226,443 infections and 105,490 deaths.

In terms of cases, India ranks third (2,461,190), and is followed by Russia (910,778), South Africa (579,140), Mexico (511,369), Peru (507,996), Colombia (433,805), Chile (382,111), Spain (342,813), Iran (338,825), the UK (315,605), Saudi Arabia (295,902), Pakistan (287,300), Argentina (282,437), Bangladesh (271,881), Italy (252,809), France (249,655), Turkey (246,861), Germany (223,791), Iraq (168,290), Philippines (153,660), Indonesia (135,123), Canada (123,521), Qatar (114,532) and Kazakhstan (101,848), the CSSE figures showed.

The other countries with over 10,000 deaths are the Mexico (55,908), India (48,040), UK (46,791), Italy (35,234), France (30,410), Spain (28,617), Peru (25,648), Iran (19,331), Russia (15,467), Colombia (14,145), South Africa (11,556) and Chile (10,340).

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