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Pakistan on alert as TTP mounts comeback

With reports of some Taliban fighters being seen in the Swat valley, the authorities concerned are preparing a “contingency plan” to deal with the militant threat in case talks with the TTP collapsed….reports Asian Lite News

The Pakistan government is preparing a “contingency plan” to deal with the potential resurgence of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terror group after reports suggesting the banned outfit was trying to make a comeback, sources said.

Although the government has been holding talks with the TTP for months to broker some kind of a deal, prospects of such an agreement are grim, the sources told The Express Tribune.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif expressed his apprehensions about the success of the talks, while Pakistan’s special envoy on Afghanistan Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq had admitted the peace process was at a “nascent stage”.

With reports of some Taliban fighters being seen in the Swat valley, the authorities concerned are preparing a “contingency plan” to deal with the militant threat in case talks with the TTP collapsed.

Authorities have not closed the window of talks with the TTP, they are at the same time ready to deal with any eventuality, The Express Tribune reported.

Sources said the primary reason Pakistan entered into talks with the TTP was that the Afghan Taliban were reluctant to take any military action against the outfit.

Instead, the interim Afghan Taliban government was keen on Pakistan and the TTP to resolve their differences through talks.

Pakistan began negotiating with the TTP not out of choice but out of compulsion, according to the sources.

During one of the in-camera briefings given to MPs, the military leadership had said talks were in an initial phase and any deal with the TTP would be strictly in accordance with the Constitution and law.

It is believed that Pakistan is trying to exhaust all available options before resorting to any other steps to deal with the threat of the TTP.

The Afghan Taliban government is in a fix as it is reluctant to take any action against the TTP but at the same understands the importance of Pakistan, Express Tribune reported.

With the recent killing of Al Qaeda chief Aymen-Al-Zawahiri in Kabul, the Taliban government in Afghanistan has now come under increased pressure to cut ties to terrorist groups.

Zawahiri’s killing has diminished chances of the Taliban getting recognition in the foreseeable future.

If the issue of the TTP remains unaddressed, the Taliban may antagonise Pakistan, which has been their main advocate seeking legitimacy for the current government in Kabul, The Express Tribune said.

ALSO READ: Anti-Imran purge gathers steam in Pakistan

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Bangladesh FM warns on China’s BRI loans

China had committed to invest $40 billion in various infrastructure projects and joint ventures under the BRI in 2016 during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh….reports Asian Lite News

Bangladesh Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has come out openly warning countries to be watchful of Chinese loans which are directed through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Interestingly, Chinas Foreign Minister Wang Yi just wound up his Dhaka trip on Sunday.

Dhaka is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a financial assistance package. It has also sought budgetary support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). However, China has been fast expanding its presence in Bangladesh as well.

China had committed to invest $40 billion in various infrastructure projects and joint ventures under the BRI in 2016 during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh.

“Authorities in Bangladesh are well aware of the fact that Chinese loans could land them in a bigger trouble but there is a need for infrastructure development and mostly the terms and conditions of the deals are not tilted too much in favour of the Chinese.. we have seen what has happened to Sri Lanka. Beijing’s loans are driven by their own interests and countries need to understand that.. There is a growing trust deficit with China,” a Dhaka based analyst told India Narrative.

Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserves have been depleting rapidly. Its foreign exchange reserves stood at $39.48 billion as of July 27 compared to $45.7 billion a year earlier.

Sri Lanka, which had been heavily dependent on Chinese assistance for supporting its economy, has officially declared bankruptcy. The Sri Lankan economic crisis has led to growing concerns across the world, especially for the countries which have received big ticket loans from Beijing.

“Everyone blames China. China cannot disagree. It’s their responsibility,” the New York Daily Paper quoted Kamal as saying. He also added that China too on its part must do a thorough analysis of the project for which it is lending.

An Observer Research Foundation report said that ever since Sri Lanka plunged into a full-fledged economic crisis, China — the island state’s largest bilateral creditor and trade partner — has provided it with humanitarian assistance of a mere $74 million. China is also yet to decide on Sri Lanka’s request for loan restructuring and additional financial aid worth $4 billion, the report added.

Wang Yi, after winding up his Dhaka visit said that the China-Bangladesh relations were “founded on the basis of profound mutual trust of the elder generations of national leaders of the two countries, on the basis of jointly striving for national independence and dignity, and on the basis of jointly safeguarding legitimate interests of developing countries.” He also thanked Dhaka for adhering to the One China policy.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

ALSO READ: India, Bangladesh discuss boosting defence ties

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‘Che Guevara’ of South Asia seeks intervention of India in Balochistan

Our enemy is coward and scared of our scholars in the universities from their fame and their enlightened minds and is trying to silence them through assassinations”…Dr Allah Nazar Baloch interacts with Mark Kinra

Before India’s independence and Pakistan’s creation, on 11 August 1947, Balochistan got independence. But it lasted only nine months as Pakistan occupied Balochistan on 27 March 1948. Since then, Balochistan has been fighting for its independence and for more than two decades one person-Dr Allah Nazar Baloch has been fighting tooth and nail against the Pakistani Army.

In an exclusive interview, Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) leader Dr Allah Nazar Baloch speaks with Mark Kinra about his journey in the field of politics, torture in Pakistani dungeons, the newly created BRAS group, the Iran connection, Barrick Gold, Baloch expectations from India and much more.

Excerpts from the interview:

Please tell me something about your background and how did you start your political journey?

I was born in a common Baloch family in Mashkay, Awaran district. My family’s occupation was similar to that of a common Baloch-living a nomad’s way and working as seasonal farmers. As far as my political life is concerned, it started in 1985 through the Baloch Students Organization (BSO).

What were the turning points in your life that made you put down your stethoscope, shun your medical practice, pick up the gun and become a freedom fighter?

I will not term it as a turning point because we had been hearing the stories of terror from our elders which were perpetrated by Gen. Ayub Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and others, which has affected our living conditions on a day-to-day basis. Later, BSO gave us an understanding of how the Baloch are subjugated and our rights denied.

As far as shunning medical practice is concerned, this was a great opportunity for me as I can indulge myself in understanding my people, my land and my nation I which couldn’t do during five years of medical education. Not that I was waiting for such an opportunity but as soon as I got that opportunity and the BLF came into being; our real political struggle i.e the freedom struggle started. But I never really left the practice completely and tried to continue it alongside the freedom struggle. But surely in some sense, Pakistan’s barbarity towards the Baloch, poverty and stories from our elders was a turning point which led us to pick a weapon and initiate the freedom struggle for Balochistan.

You were a member of the Baloch Student Organization (BSO), what was the reason to form your own student organization BSO (Azad)?

Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law was still in place when I became a member of BSO. Soon after his plane crashed in August 1988, elections were announced. A section of BSO to which I was attached, had relations with the Baloch National Youth Movement (BNYM) and the latter contested the elections on the condition that they will use this platform to highlight the freedom struggle. But later they got entangled in Pakistani politics and it became a challenge for us.

Until that time, I held several top positions in BSO. I was the Senior Vice-Chairman of BSO when BSO (Azad) was created. Our thought was to create a platform which would be free from the influence of Pakistani politics and to create leadership for the community. We were eventually successful and as of today, the Baloch freedom struggle movement takes its credit that most leaders were part of BSO (Azad).

Please tell us in detail about BLF. Does it relate to Jumma Khan’s BLF of the 1960s or is it a completely different organization?

Jumma Khan’s BLF has nothing to do with our BLF. Mir Jumma Khan was a seasoned politician who used to fight in Iran-occupied Balochistan. Yes, we have taken our name from the old organization but our organization is very different in its ideology.

You have been arrested many times by Pakistani forces and detained for years. You faced uncountable physical and mental torture. How did you maintain your will and sanity in such extreme situations?

During the political protests, I was arrested many times-sometimes for hours, sometimes for days but the cruellest mental and physical torture which I had to bear was in 2005. I still carry trauma from the torture which was inflicted on me 17 years ago.

It isn’t just me. Numerous Baloch have undergone torture in the torture dungeons of Pakistan and they have the same story to share. This includes several of my colleagues who are fighting for independence today and have survived these torture cells like – Mir Wahid Qambar, Mir Abdul Nabi Bagulzai, Dr Naseem Baloch (BNM Chairman), Kamal Baloch (Senior Joint Secretary), Akhtar Nadeem and my brother Ali Nawaz Gohar who was later martyred and many more friends.

Our longing for freedom kept us strong during these horrific times. I remember once when I was in jail, a professor visited me to ask about my well-being and told me that I have to sustain this torture because I am living for a bigger purpose. All those struggling in Pakistan’s death dungeons today are alive because of their willpower and bigger purpose for the Baloch nation.

In 2018, BRAS was formed, which is an umbrella organization of Baloch armed groups. What was the reasoning behind BRAS, when BLF is already functioning separately?

As far as BRAS is concerned, we needed Etihaad (togetherness) and we were planning this for long. BLF is a successful organization but we believe whichever organization is fighting this independence war should be on a common platform. Groups like BLA, BRG and BRA are all part of BRAS. There are several other groups, which I believe should also become part of BRAS and I intend that this alliance should culminate towards a strong unified organization in future, my firm belief along with other leaders is that this organization will lead the Baloch struggle further.

Over 14,000 persons missing in Balochistan and the count is rising each day

Do you think that the leadership of common Baloch like yourself has replaced the Sardari system?

The Sardari system hasn’t benefited the Balochistan independence war from the beginning. Moreover, we feel there are a lot of pitfalls in the tribal system as they cannot fulfil the desires of the independence struggle. That is why the Baloch nation has decided to fight a war which leads the whole nation together. I don’t want to name myself, but there are a lot of Baloch under whose leadership the Baloch nation is fighting a commendable independence war and they have no linkages to the family of any Sardar but they are fighting like a common Baloch. Sardars and their families should realize that the tribal system will not fulfil the desires of the national movement and they should fight this war as Baloch.

In a recent interview, Mehran Marri said that the genesis of Balochistan’s struggle was laid by Marri and Bugti families, how do you see this statement considering that the fight for Balochistan has gone beyond these families and common people have joined in?

I disagree with Mehran Marri sahib that the struggle for independence of Balochistan was started by either family. The freedom struggle was started by the people of Balochistan. Though both Nawab Khair Bax Marri and Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti were stalwarts of the Baloch nation and we highly regard them for their sacrifices which are inspiring to the Baloch nation today and in times to come. I believe, the trust which the Baloch nation had towards the two stalwarts is lesser towards the current family members. If they can fight this independence war being a Baloch and not a Sardar then the Baloch nation wholeheartedly will support our friends.

Pakistani intellectuals and authorities have stated that Iran is supporting and backing you while Mehran Marri, without naming the BLF, has stated that many new activists are being monetarily supported by Iran, Saudi Arabia and ISI. How much truth is there in this statement?

I don’t know on what basis, the concerned person is saying that I am getting support from Iran and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia doesn’t even share a border with Balochistan. We are fighting independently, we want support from the EU, UK, US, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Gulf states and all those countries who consider the Baloch as a victim. They should support our cause for independence and we would welcome them. Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia has supported us till and I don’t see any plan in the foreseeable future. However, hope God-willing these countries support us.

There have been some major attacks on Pakistan since the start of this year. After the Lahore blast at the Anarkali market, you stated that each independence war is unique and depends upon the war strategy of the oppressed. Are you favouring the killing of civilians in this independence war?

I will never favour attacking the civilian population as a human being but the fact of the matter is the psychology of our enemy, the realities of our land and region are very different than in other parts of the world. Our enemy doesn’t even spare our mothers and children.

Men and women, old or young are treated in the same manner, they are being dragged out of their homes and put in jail or killed and their mutilated bodies are dumped. Our enemy is coward and scared of our scholars in the universities from their fame and their enlightened minds and is trying to silence them through assassinations. And in this context, I have stated that our struggle is different from anywhere else in the world, especially in regards to the enemy and geography as we are fighting a complicated war, therefore our strategy also needs to be different. Our enemy doesn’t have any ethics nor cultural values or redlines in war, so we need to act accordingly at times.

BRAS has warned Canadian company Barrick Gold to stay from the Reko Diq deal. The new deal will give 25% to Balochistan and will give employment to Baloch. Why do you oppose the deal, even the Balochistan Assembly has given its assent to the deal?

Balochistan Assembly doesn’t represent Baloch, all those people who are sitting in the Assembly are brought in by ISI. Baloch doesn’t even know the names of these representatives. They are all selected people. The alleged CM of Balochistan belongs to my place, what kind of popular support does he have? He couldn’t even bag 8% support among the registered voters but now he has become the CM. I firmly believe Baloch has never trusted this Assembly for its legality or its freedom struggle. I request the media to take note of this that this Assembly is created by ISI and from time to time people sit here like in musical chairs. I completely support the warning which BRAS has given to Barrick Gold officials for Reko Diq or Chinese for CPEC that foreign companies should not trade with illegitimate people who have colonized us and these projects are displacing people, exploiting them and they do not have approval or sanctity of the Baloch nation.

Pakistan has alleged that BLF has for a long time received funding and support from India. Is this true? If No, do you wish that the Indian people and Indian Govt. should support the cause of Balochistan?

Pakistan has always alleged from the start that we receive funding and support from India, which is ridiculous. These Pakistani Punjabis are perpetual liars, they even blame their politicians/political parties as Indian agents. This is part of their culture and political narrative. We are fighting for our independence, so Pakistan will use this propaganda. We want to clarify that we want India to intervene in Balochistan as an immediate neighbour but unfortunately India is not openly supporting Balochistan’s independence nor providing any kind of support to Baloch. We appeal and welcome India being the biggest democracy to intervene in Balochistan as India knows how Pakistan is committing genocide upon us, it is also your responsibility from our shared history.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

ALSO READ: Anti-Imran purge gathers steam in Pakistan

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Myanmar civil war: Is there an end?

Despite the junta using brutal methods like scorched-earth tactics and a war of attrition against the resistance, it has not been able to consolidate its position in the country, particularly in small towns and rural areas, writes Baladas Ghoshal

After nearly a year and a half since the military junta led by army chief General Min Aung Hlaing seized power and formed the State Administration Council (SAC) in Myanmar, the country is steeped in a civil war with no end in sight. There seems little possibility of reconciliation between the junta and large-scale resistance groups, which are gradually increasing their operational capabilities with the help of the old detractors of the military regime.

Apart from the traditional Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta’ang National Army (TNLA), the Myanmar army – also called the Tatmadaw, faces hundreds of local defence forces (LDFs) and urban guerrilla cells. Despite the junta using brutal methods like scorched-earth tactics and a war of attrition against the resistance, it has not been able to consolidate its position in the country, particularly in small towns and rural areas. Peoples militia in the form of Peoples Defence Forces (PDF) and Local defence Forces (LDF) have been somewhat successful, in organising alternative governance structure in their own areas.

Though it may sound a bit exaggerated, the assessment of the situation in the country, according to an observer from the International Crisis Group (ICG) is that 200 townships out of 330 have formed an alternative governance structure. Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) are also expanding their territory of operation independent of the Tatmadaw’s control. From an initial status of a weak rag tag formations without any major weapons and equipment, the resistance groups have now developed formidable strength to throw a challenge to the Tatmadaw.

Opinions among the observers vary, as no one knows the exact situation within the country.

Those who get their feedback from the sources of the National Unity Government (NUG), the shadow government put up by the resistance groups, are overly optimistic about the strength of the opposition and even hope the Tatmadaw may lose its grip on power.

Reports coming out from Myanmar say, it appears the Tatmadaw is now stretched very thinly, and is relying on the police force, intelligence agencies and ad hoc militias to help enforce its will over the population. Reports of military casualties are doubtless exaggerated, but security force losses are high enough to raise questions about the attrition rate, and the sustainability of key military formations.

Apparently, the Tatmadaw looks like a strong force with 500,000 men and great resources at its disposal, control over the economy and business interests, but in reality it has just about 100,000 combat forces. Also, it has to fight a vast array of armed resistance groups across the entire country, particularly in large fronts on the North and North-west of the country.

Twenty different Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) are now increasingly coordinating with the LDFs and the PDFs. This does not, however, mean the resistance groups will be able to overwhelm the Tatmadaw and score a victory over it anytime soon or later. It only means that the security situation within the country has changed in recent months.

The resistance still lacks weapons, equipment and expertise. More importantly, it lacks air power, which the junta uses generously to inflict damage on the resistance. But it is now better organised, better trained and better armed. It reportedly consists of some 259 PDF units, with approximately 80,000-100,000 members. In addition, there are around 250 local defence groups, and 400 other ‘guerrilla forces’ (a term that seems to include both rural guerrilla bands and urban resistance cells), that broadly support the NUG’s aims. The NUG claims that it now controls half of Myanmar, (although this seems to include large areas under the sway of EAOs).

Its leaders speak of ‘going on the offensive’. They also point to growing contacts with foreign governments and international organisations. None of these have formally recognised the shadow government or promised lethal aid, but the junta is becoming increasingly isolated and on the defensive. This is evident from junta leader Min Hlaing’s recent visit to Russia where he had gone to shop for more fighter aircraft against the resistance. The momentum seems to be with the resistance.

At the same time, it will be wrong to make any objective assessment of the situation in Myanmar based on NUG’s tall claims alone. Reports coming out of the country are one-sided, which may not truly reflect the actual situation on the ground. That said, some noted Myanmar-watchers are now revising their pessimistic forecasts. A number has acknowledged that the Tatmadaw is on the defensive, and struggling to meet the challenges posed by the armed resistance. The recruitment of ad hoc militias, the training being given to soldiers’ wives, the use of policemen for military duties and attempts to strike peace deals with the EAOs all suggest a regime under pressure.

Even if the regime is under pressure, it can still withstand the challenge from the resistance groups as long as the Tatmadaw remains largely loyal and cohesive, and as long as the generals continue to be backed by Russia and China, it is hard to see them being defeated by force of arms.

Andrew Selth, an Australian analyst puts it aptly: “The junta may lose control of the country’s periphery (a situation past governments have encountered) and it will face serious challenges elsewhere, but it should still be able to survive in the ethnic Bamar heartland. The regime is clearly in difficulties, but it does not have to win the war to remain in power. It just has to avoid losing it.”

Under the circumstances, political and military stalemate will continue for some time, possibly even years. The situation can of course change if there was a significant shift in the strategic environment, say if a major Tatmadaw combat unit mutinied, or if a foreign government provided the PDF with modern arms, like shoulder-fired missiles.

However, at this stage, such scenarios remain hypothetical. As long as the Ukraine war continues and the world is seized with that, there is hardly any possibility of any foreign government materially supporting the resistance groups with arms and ammunitions without which it would not be in a position to make any fundamental change in the military situation.

The chances of a negotiated settlement are bleak as neither side is in a mood to compromise. The junta has vowed to ‘annihilate’ the opposition movement, which it describes as terrorists, while the NUG has formally declared war on the military regime and rejected any suggestion of a negotiated settlement. “For both sides, the goal is total victory, but such an outcome is likely to prove a chimera,” to quote Selth again.

Myanmar’s problem does not rest only with the political and military solution. The resistance groups consist of diverse groups, each having their own agenda and their own vision of the future state of Myanmar but currently united against a common enemy-the Tatmadaw. Even if they are able to defeat the Tatmadaw hypothetically and the common enemy disappears, differences are likely to appear in the ranks of the resistance as to the future contours of the government and the State. For the time being they have agreed on a Federal Charter but implementing it to the satisfaction of all stakeholders would be a difficult task.

Myanmar’s struggle for democracy accommodating aspirations of diverse groups and formation of an equitable federal government structure is going to be a long drawn out struggle and will require unity among the stakeholders based on compromises.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

ALSO READ: China-led mining in Myanmar fuels rights abuses, pollution

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SINDHIS IN SEARCH OF POTABLE WATER

Water is life, but in Sindh it breeds death! Water treatment plants in various towns in Sindh draw their raw water from the Indus River, or from canals, depending on their location. The surface water bodies in Sindh are polluted, with the degree of pollution varying from one location to another. This means that the water from rivers, canals and streams in Sindh require adequate treatment to make it safe for drinking … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

WaterAid’s Pakistan Country Strategy for 2010-2015 states that around 50 per cent of the population has adequate access to drinking water and a mere 15 per cent to sanitation.

In terms of availability of water, the worst affected is Sindh province in Pakistan, where only 10 per cent of the land area has fresh groundwater availability. Almost 78 per cent of the province relies on saline groundwater which is not fit for irrigation. As the groundwater is saline in most areas, the rural population is dependent on supplies from the canal system. It is, therefore, not surprising that the province recently witnessed a double whammy in the form of torrential rain and floods as well as protests against the dumping of toxic waste in a reservoir close to a coal power plant. This has led to several households being affected and future generations being put at risk.

A survey carried out by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, informs that out of 1247 surveyed water supply schemes only 529 (42 per cent) were functional in 22 districts of Sindh with an average duration supply of 5 hrs/day. Only 25 per cent of water samples were fit for drinking while the remaining are contaminated with microorganisms and arsenic.

The issue of water contamination in Sindh recently came to the limelight when residents belonging to five villages near the Gorano reservoir (Tharparkar) held a protest at a time when the Chief Minister of Sindh was visiting. The cause of these protests was the dumping of toxic water into the water-waste reservoir.

Protestors at the site claimed that the Sindh government had failed to meet its promises made to the local people. They claimed that their homes and grazing lands for animals had vanished and several residents had become homeless, due to the dumping of highly toxic water from the reservoir. It is clear that toxic water wreaked havoc on the ecology and environment in the area.

Water treatment plants in various towns in Sindh draw their raw water from the Indus River, or from canals, depending on their location. The surface water bodies in Sindh are polluted, with the degree of pollution varying from one location to another. This means that the water from rivers, canals and streams in Sindh requires adequate treatment to make it safe for drinking. Water treatment plants convert contaminated water to safe drinking water. They are designed according to the type of contaminants in the water.

In the case of Gorano, over 500 families were supposedly given an annual compensation of Pak Rs1,00,000 each for a few years, although the Chief Minister had promised to release of compensation funds every year against huge losses suffered by villagers. Locals complained that more and more water was being released in the Gorano waste water reservoir, increasing environmental issues for thousands of the residents, their livestock and wildlife species. They threatened to widen the scope of their protest if their demands were not met.

A story in the Express Tribune shows that the reservoir, a vast body of brackish water, was formed after water discharged from Thar Block-II, where a coal-fired power plant functions and coal mining is undertaken, began accumulating in the area. An area of 2,500 acres was marked for the pond, which was planned to contain the water disposed of. However, the pond covers an area of over 4,000 acres and twelve villages in its surroundings face its hazardous effects.

A water testing report of samples from Gorano, Thar Block-II, issued by the Soil Salinity and Reclamation Institute Tandojam, has declared the water unfit. The report, (17 July 2020) states that the ratio of total suspended solids in stunt water is above 6,000 one part per million (ppm), deeming the water unfit for irrigation. Similarly, a report by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, (May 2020), informs that Thar will be a major air pollutant and mercury and CO2 emission hotspot in South Asia. At a time when toxic water was damaging people’s livelihoods in one part of Sindh, another part of the province was inundated by floods.

Media reports say that as many as 30 villages were submerged in the Sindh province after flash floods from Baluchistan entered the province, taking the total number of drowned villages to fifty. Torrential rains and flash floods in Baluchistan, caused streams of floodwater to enter in adjacent Qambar-Shahdadkot district and the hilly region of Kachho in Dadu district, causing more losses in different areas. This year, Baluchistan has been the worst affected, where the death toll has reached 150. The recent deaths were reported in Zhob, QillaSaifullah, Kohlu, Naushki and Lasbela areas of Balochistan that endured flash floods.

In Sindh, the village of MasuBhurgri (Hyderabad Taluka) has been in the news recently due to the floods destroying the cotton fields of several farmers. Torrential rains have left fields flooded and cotton crops destroyed. Southern Pakistan has been hit hard by floods after unusually heavy monsoon rains this year. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of homes have been swept away. Around fifty villages in Sindh were inundated, reported local media, after flash floods from the neighbouring province of Baluchistan flowed over, destroying thousands of acres of agricultural land and orchards. MasuBhurgri has around sixty families, mostly engaging in agricultural work, planting cotton, wheat, and chillies. The region has been suffering from drought for decades and the monsoon rains were always welcome. But this year, it was too much of a good thing and now farmers are at a loss. Rana Shakeel Ahmed, a village elder, described the loss as substantial and said no help from authorities was forthcoming.

A cursory glance at Pakistan’s water situation tells us that conditions are dire and yet successive governments have done little to find effective solutions to the crisis. A Pakistan Institute for Development Economics report on Pakistan’s Water Crisis shows that more than 80 per cent of the country’s population faces “severe water scarcity.” Water availability in Pakistan has plummeted from 5,229 cubic meters per inhabitant in 1962 to just 1,187 in 2017. The question today is not so much when the next crisis will come but how soon. Amidst this gloomy picture, Pakistan’s leaders need to be sensitized to another reality, particularly in Sindh. Water is supposed to give life; instead, it has become the harbinger of death.

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India, Bangladesh discuss boosting defence ties


Lieutenant General Waker-Uz-Zaman was in India as the head of a 15-member Bangladeshi armed forces to attend the 4th Annual Defence Dialogue and 2nd Tri-Services Staff Talks….reports Asian Lite News

As part of ongoing efforts to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries, Principal Staff Officer, Armed Forces Division of Bangladesh Lieutenant General Waker-Uz-Zaman, met with Indian

and Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The official Twitter account of the Additional Directorate General of Public Information, IHQ of the MoD (Army), tweeted about it, saying, “Lieutenant General Waker-Uz-Zaman, Principal Staff Officer, Armed Forces Division, #Bangladesh called on General Manoj Pande #COAS and discussed ways to enhance the bilateral #DefenceCooperation between both Nations. #IndiaBangladeshFriendship”.

“Lt Gen Waker-Uz-Zaman, Principal Staff Officer, Armed Forces Division, #Bangladesh on an official visit to India called on Adm R Hari Kumar, #CNS. Reaffirmed commitment to strengthening multi-disciplinary bilateral engagements & shared responsibilities towards #maritimesecurity,” the Indian Navy tweeted.

Lieutenant General Waker-Uz-Zaman was in India as the head of a 15-member Bangladeshi armed forces to attend the 4th Annual Defence Dialogue and 2nd Tri-Services Staff Talks.

India and Bangladesh, meanwhile, reiterated their commitment to strengthening bilateral military ties at the 2nd India-Bangladesh Tri-services Staff Talks (TSST) held in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Brigadier General Husain Muhammad Rahaman, Director General Operation and Plan Directorate, Armed Force Division from Bangladesh, and Brigadier General Vivek Narang, Deputy Assistant Chief of Integrated Staff, IDC(A), HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), co-chaired the meeting.

“The discussions focused on the ongoing and new initiatives taken under the ambit of the existing bilateral defence cooperation mechanism of all three services and further strengthened the bilateral defence engagements,” said a press release issued by the Ministry of Defence.

Before arriving in New Delhi, the delegation visited various defence industries in Bangalore.

“They witnessed the capabilities of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, Tata Advanced Systems Limited and Big Bang Boom Solutions before departing for Delhi,” the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh said on Twitter.

The TSST is a platform created to strengthen defence cooperation between the two countries via routine discussions at the strategic and operational levels between HQ IDS and Bangladesh Armed Forces Division.

ALSO READ: French Rafale jets make crucial stopover in India

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Asia News Sport

BRICS Games to be held online in Sept

Gao Zhidan, director of China’s General Administration of Sport, expressed his belief that the BRICS Games will enhance solidarity and friendship, promote peace and development…reports Asian Lite News

Athletes from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will compete online at the 2022 BRICS Games, which are to be held from September 1 to 30, organisers announced on Thursday.

The 2022 BRICS Games features breakdancing, chess and Wushu (Chinese martial arts) as medal events and yoga, dragon and lion dance, dragon boat racing, Brazil jiu-jitsu, sambo and dibeke as demonstration events, reports Xinhua.

Gao Zhidan, director of China’s General Administration of Sport, expressed his belief that the BRICS Games will enhance solidarity and friendship, promote peace and development.

“I believe the 2022 BRICS Games will play a unique role in improving BRICS sports development and promoting understanding and friendship in the BRICS sports community and among BRICS peoples, and contribute to fostering high-quality partnership and embarking on a new journey of BRICS cooperation through the power of sports,” Gao said in a speech posted on the Games’ official website.

Registration for the competition begins on August 15.

ALSO READ-Saudi, Turkey, Egypt set to join BRICS

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Australia men’s cricket team donate tour prize money to crisis-hit Lanka

The tour of Sri Lanka in June-July 2021 was Australia’s first trip to the island nation since 2016. Australia won the T20I series 2-1 before Sri Lanka clinched the ODI series 3-2. The tour ended with the two-match Test series in Galle at 1-1…reports Asian Lite News

Australia’s men’s cricket team players on Thursday said they have donated their prize money from the recent all-format tour of Sri Lanka to support children and families impacted by the island nation’s economic crisis, the worst in decades for the country.

The donation will be led by Test captain Pat Cummins, who is a UNICEF Australia ambassador, and white-ball skipper Aaron Finch. In all, the team will donate 45,000 Australia dollars (25,36,294 lakhs in INR) to the organisation’s Sri Lanka appeal.

The donation made by Australia men’s cricketers will go towards UNICEF’s programs to support nutrition, healthcare, safe drinking water, education, and mental health services for 1.7 million vulnerable Sri Lankan children in need.

“It was very clear to us how much day-to-day life for Sri Lankans is being impacted. When the team saw what was happening it was an easy decision to donate our prize money to UNICEF, who have been in Sri Lanka for more than 50 years supporting the needs of children and families,” Cummins was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.

The tour of Sri Lanka in June-July 2021 was Australia’s first trip to the island nation since 2016. Australia won the T20I series 2-1 before Sri Lanka clinched the ODI series 3-2. The tour ended with the two-match Test series in Galle at 1-1.

Since April this year, Sri Lanka has been in acute economic and social crisis due to daily power cuts, rising fuel prices and massive shortages of basic essentials like food and medicines. During Australia’s second Test against Sri Lanka, peaceful protests happened around Galle International Cricket Stadium and in capital city Colombo apart from long lines by people for filing petrol in vehicles.

In 2021, Cummins and Cricket Australia both donated 50,000 Australian dollars (28,18,621 lakhs in INR) for oxygen supplies during India’s Covid-19 crisis, when the second wave wreaked havoc in 2021, that resulted in the postponement of the Indian Premier League (IPL) mid-way when the bio-bubbles were breached by the virus.

“Last year Australian cricketers got behind India in its time of crisis during the peak of the COVID-19 Delta wave and we thank them for again giving generously to help Sri Lankans impacted by the current crisis. Australia has a strong bond with Sri Lanka that goes beyond the match days and this donation is gratefully received to support the long-term wellbeing of Sri Lanka’s families,” said Tony Stuart, UNICEF Australia CEO.

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Cash taken by Ghani while fleeing Kabul did not exceed $1 mn

SIGAR further added that former president Ashraf Ghani refused to be interviewed, and his attorney answered only six questions out of 56…reports Asian Lite News

The final report on the transfer of funds by former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani while he was fleeing the country has been made public by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), media reports said.

As per the report, this number did not exceed $1 million and may have been closer in value to $500,000, Tolo News reported.

“Although SIGAR found that some cash was taken from the grounds of the palace and loaded onto President Ghani’s evacuation helicopters, evidence indicates that this number did not exceed $1 million and may have been closer in value to $500,000. Most of this money was believed to have come from several Afghan government operating budgets normally managed at the palace,” the report read, Tolo News reported.

SIGAR’s report said that a lot of money was left in government buildings, including those of the president and national security, and has disappeared.

“SIGAR also identified suspicious circumstances in which approximately $5 million in cash was accidentally left behind at the presidential palace. Some or all of this money likely belonged to President Ghani or the government of the United Arab Emirates. Some or all of it was also supposedly divided by members of the Presidential Protective Service after the helicopters departed but before the Taliban captured the palace,” the report read, Tolo News reported.

SIGAR further added that former president Ashraf Ghani refused to be interviewed, and his attorney answered only six questions out of 56.

“On March 14, 2022, SIGAR sent 56 written questions to President Ghani through his attorney concerning these theft allegations and other matters related to SIGAR’s congressionally mandated examination of the Afghan government’s collapse. On July 28, 2022, through his attorney, President Ghani provided answers to only six of those 56 questions,” according to the report.

SIGAR began its investigations after Ashraf Ghani was accused by the Russian Embassy of transferring millions of dollars as he fled Afghanistan.

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Taliban cleric killed by bomb hidden in prosthetic leg

He was among the Taliban officials who supported the education of women and girls, in a BBC interview, he stated that no rationale in Sharia law prohibits female education…reports Asian Lite News

Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani, a prominent Taliban figure, was killed in a suicide attack on a seminary in Kabul on Thursday when the attacker blew explosives placed in a prosthetic leg, according to Taliban authorities and sources.

Taliban’s deputy spokesperson, Bilal Karimi, confirmed the veracity of the incident and stated that the explosion in the Shash Darak area of Kabul’s Police District 2 “martyred” Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani, Khaama Press reported.

He had previously been a target of the Islamic State (IS) group, albeit it is now unclear who killed him as no group has claimed responsibility so far.

Sheikh Haqqani was a steadfast opponent of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K), and a supporter of the Taliban administration, Khaama Press reported.

He was among the Taliban officials who supported the education of women and girls, in a BBC interview, he stated that no rationale in Sharia law prohibits female education.

Since taking control when international forces began to withdraw almost a year ago, the Taliban claim to have restored security.

However, there have been frequent attacks in recent months, many of which have been claimed by Islamic State.

He is one of the highest profile figures to have been killed in the country since the Taliban returned to power last year, BBC reported.

Despite sharing the same name, he was not related to Afghanistan’s Haqqani militant group network.

Afghanistan has witnessed a series of blasts in recent weeks. The blasts have occurred in a number of areas in the capital city of Kabul including Chandawal, Pul-e-Sokhta and Sarkariz.

At least three people were killed and seven others suffered injuries in a blast that occurred near the Pul-e-Sokhta area in the west of Kabul on August 6 local media reported citing the statement of the commander of PD6 in Kabul, Mawlawi Zabihullah.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has condemned the recent blasts in Afghanistan that have killed and injured more than 120 people.

“Following the Islamic State-claimed blasts in Kabul in recent days that killed and injured more than 120 people, the UN family in Afghanistan urges greater security for minorities so that Ashura can be marked without further attacks,” the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) tweeted.

The US also condemned the ISIS-K-claimed attacks during Ashura, which targeted Hazara and Shia-majority areas in Kabul.

Since the Taliban regime took control of Afghanistan, blasts and attacks have become a regular affair with unabated human rights violations involving ceaseless murder of civilians, destroying mosques and temples, assaulting women, and fuelling terror in the region.

Last month, a bomb exploded near Karte Parwan Gurudwara in Kabul, a month after the holy place was attacked by members of the Islamic State. Religious minorities in Afghanistan, including the Sikh community, have been targets of violence in Afghanistan.

The human rights situation has been exacerbated by a nationwide economic, financial and humanitarian crisis of unprecedented scale.

At least 59 per cent of the population is now in need of humanitarian assistance – an increase of 6 million people compared with the beginning of 2021, according to UNAMA.

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