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Pakistan enhances security ahead of general elections

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Pakistan PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

Islamabad, July 20 :The Pakistani government has enhanced security across the country, especially of the politicians and for public rallies ahead of the July 25 general elections, an official said on Friday.

The government held several high-level meetings last week over the security issues in which police, the Counter Terrorism Department and intelligence agencies were directed to step up security for prominent political figures under threat and sensitive installations in all provinces to thwart possible terrorist attacks.

Rallies, processions, demonstrations and public meetings have been banned except those which are allowed by the authorities and held in the secured premises, the government official told Xinhua news agency.

Vigilance has been increased at important places including airports, railway stations, bus terminals, markets, hospitals, schools, religious places and recreational sites.

Police have been asked to conduct surveys of residential areas, hostels, guest houses and hotels to ensure that no miscreant is hiding.

Pakistan is going to hold general elections for the National Assembly — the Lower House of the country’s Parliament — and four provincial Assemblies. Following the elections, the National Assembly will elect the country’s new Prime Minister.

Tensions have risen in the country since the jailing of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges last week. He was jailed for 10 years while his daughter and presumed political heir Maryam Nawaz received a seven-year sentence.

The three-time Premier claims that the military is aiding a “judicial witch-hunt” to prevent the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) from winning a second term in power.

Following a pro-Sharif rally in the city last week, Pakistani authorities launched an anti-terrorism investigation against PML-N leaders and opened criminal cases against nearly 17,000 party members.

Opinion polls indicate a close race between the PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the son of assassinated former Premier Benazir Bhutto, is expected to finish in third place, surveys say.

Security measures have been taken after a series of terrorist attacks at political rallies in Pakistan earlier this month, which have killed at least 180 people and injured over 200.

On July 13, at least 150 people lost their lives in a suicide blast targeting a convoy of a political candidate in Mastung area of the country’s Balochistan province. A strike on another politician the same day in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province killed four people.

Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) warned that the country’s key political leaders were facing security threats from extremists during the election period.

The Pakistani Army has announced that it would play its due role to support the Election Commission to conduct the polls in a peaceful atmosphere by deploying 371,388 security personnel at the 85,300 polling stations across the country to ensure security.

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Late US President Bush secretly sponsored Filipino child

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George HW Bush

Washington, Dec 19:  Former US President George H.W. Bush, who passed away in November, has sponsored a seven-year-old boy in the Philippines for 10 years under a pseudonym, a non-profit who connected them has revealed.

Through Compassion International that uses churches to help children in poor communities around the world, Bush sponsored Timothy for a decade, the CNN reported.

The 41st US President, who passed away at the age of 94 years on November 30, sent funds that went toward Timothy’s education, extracurricular activities and some of his meals. The organisation has shared some of Bush’s letters with CNN.

The Bush family was not available to comment on the letters, but Jim McGrath, a spokesperson for the Office of George H.W. Bush, confirmed the letters’ authenticity.

Once the sponsorship began, Bush began writing to the boy right away. He said in his first letter, send on January 24, 2002, that he loved Timothy from the get-go.

“Dear Timothy, I want to be your new pen pal. I am an old man, 77 years old, but I love kids; and though we have not met I love you already. I live in Texas – I will write you from time to time – Good Luck. G. Walker”, a letter that perhaps was the first, read.

Despite concerns over his security breach, Bush continued his philanthropic mission and his letters to the child were some of the most endearing ones, Wess Stafford, the former president of Compassion International told CNN.

Timothy never caught on to the hints in Bush’s letters, and did not find out who his sponsor was until he had graduated from the program.

“After a while, my executive assistant, Angie Lathrop, took over the sponsorship, and after Timothy graduated at 17, she flew to the Philippines to meet him,” Stafford said. “That’s when she told him who his sponsor really was.”

Timothy was stunned, Stafford said. He really could not believe the man he had been writing letters to was once the President of the US.

Stafford said that Timothy told Lathrop he had no idea, and that the revelation was life-changing.

That was the last time the non-profit heard from Timothy, despite efforts to locate him, Stafford said.

Compassion International works through partnerships with over 7,000 churches in 25 countries around the world.

IANS

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Late rights activist Asma Jahangir wins UN Human Rights Prize for 2018

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Asma Jahangir
Asma Jahangir (File Photo)

United Nations, Dec 19: Late lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir has been awarded the UN Human Rights Prize for 2018. Her daughter Munizae Jahangir received the prestigious award on behalf of her mother.

The award is given to individuals and organisations in recognition of outstanding achievement in human rights. Asma Jahangir was announced as one of the four winners of the quinquennial prize in October.

Receiving the award for her late mother, Munizae Jahangir dedicated it to Pakistani women and their courage. The ceremony was held at the UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

Other prize winners included women’s rights activist in Tanzania, Rebeca Gyumi; activist for the rights of indigenous Brazilian communities Joenia Wapichana and Ireland’s human rights organisation Front Line Defenders.

Previous winners include Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Malala Yousafzai, the News International reported.

Asma became the fourth Pakistani woman to be awarded the UN Human Rights Prize. Before her, Begum Ra’Ana Liaquat Ali Khan (1978), Benazir Bhutto (2008) and Malala Yousufzai (2013) had been accorded the honour.

Asma, who died in February, was known for her outspoken nature and unrelenting pursuit for human rights as well as for remaining undaunted in the face of extreme pressure and opposition.

She is also remembered as a champion of the disenfranchised and for her services towards building a democratic and more inclusive Pakistan.

IANS

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Pentagon to establish ‘Space Command’

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Hack the Pentagon

Washington, Dec 18: While the Space Force would need congressional approval but US President Donald Trump issued an order on Tuesday directing the establishment of a “Space Command.”

Vice President Pence announced on Tuesday that the White House had directed the Pentagon to form a Space Command, a significant step toward the administration’s ultimate goal of establishing a department known as the Space Force that would become the first new branch of the Armed Services since the Air Force was created in 1947.

Trump said the new command will be created as a “unified combatant command” that will oversee all US military activities in space, according to his memo to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

The president has asked Mattis to recommend officers for the command’s leadership, the one-page memo said.

It added that a comprehensive list of authorities and responsibilities for the Space Command will be included in the next update to the Unified Command Plan.

Trump has been pushing to establish a Space Force by 2020, an idea that has been questioned by Pentagon officials and military experts worried about adding cost and bureaucracy.

 

Pence was speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where he was to watch the launch of a SpaceX rocket with a military cargo.

 

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