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Baloch Dissent Takes Center Stage in London Protest

A large number of women and children including Baloch National Movement members and Baloch Community UK participated in the protest…reports Asian Lite News

The UK Chapter of the Baloch National Movement staged a protest at Trafalgar Square in London, condemning the forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Baloch youth attributed to the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD).

A large number of women and children including Baloch National Movement members and Baloch Community UK participated in the protest. On this occasion, the protestors raised slogans against the atrocities of the occupying Pakistani army and CTD and demanded justice for Saif Baloch and other victims.

Recently, massive protests erupted in Turbat city in Pakistan’s Balochistan province after four youths were killed in a fake encounter by the CTD.

Family members and workers of different political parties joined the protest at the Fida Shaheed Chowk, along with the corpse of Balaach Mola Balsh whose body was handed over to this family.

According to the family members, Bakhsh, along with three other people, was killed in a fake encounter as he was already in CTD custody since his arrest on October 29.

According to a Dawn newspaper report, a complete strike was also observed in Turbat town to protest against the killing.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the incident and posted on X, “HRCP strongly condemns the practice of extrajudicial killings by law enforcement and security agencies, which continue to be reported from Balochistan, particularly in Kech and its surrounding areas. Extrajudicial executions are not justified in any circumstances whatsoever, given that the state has a legal obligation to protect the right to life and the right to due process. The impunity accorded to perpetrators must cease and those responsible must be held to account.”

Lateef Johar Baloch, a human rights advocate, posted on X, “Balochistan has been made a slaughterhouse by Punjab to facilitate foreign investors to exploit its wealth and land. The Baloch youth were brutally murdered in brutal fake encounters in Kech because of the Chinese projects, including CPEC and Gwadar Port, which must end”.

He added, “The crimes of extrajudicial killings executed in the last few days are one of the thousands of such brutal atrocities committed by Punjab’s security forces against the owner of the land.”

According to the Baloch Freedom Front, “34 Baloch have been forcefully disappeared by Pakistan’s atrocious regime and two killed in October 2023.”The incidents of forced abductions and extrajudicial killings of students and other intellectuals are continuing in parts of Balochistan.

Such incidents have risen since the launch of the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. (ANI)

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EU member states can ban religious symbols in public workplaces

A court in Liege asked the top court whether this strict neutrality rule imposed by the municipality rose to discrimination contrary to EU law…reports Asian Lite News

The European Union’s top court on Tuesday ruled that a public administration can ban staff from visibly wearing any sign that reveals “philosophical or religious beliefs”, in order to create a “neutral administrative environment”, Politico reported.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said that National courts examine whether the measures taken reconcile freedom of religion with the legitimate objectives underlying that prohibition.

“In order to put in place an entirely neutral administrative environment, a public administration may prohibit the visible wearing in the workplace of any sign revealing philosophical or religious beliefs,” the top EU court said in a statement.

“Such a rule is not discriminatory if it is applied in a general and indiscriminate manner to all of that administration’s staff and is limited to what is strictly necessary,” the statement added.

The ruling refers to the case of a woman from the municipality of Ans in Belgium who took her grievance to a local court, claiming her freedom of religion had been infringed and that she was the victim of discrimination after she was prohibited from wearing an Islamic headscarf in her workplace. After the headscarf decision, the municipality altered its terms of employment to prohibit all workers from wearing overt signs of ideological or religious affiliation, Politico reported.

A court in Liege asked the top court whether this strict neutrality rule imposed by the municipality rose to discrimination contrary to EU law.

The rule “may be regarded as being objectively justified by a legitimate aim,” the court said, but added that an opposite policy authorizing the wearing of religious symbols would also be justified.

“Each member state, and any infra-state body within the framework of its competences, has a margin of discretion in designing the neutrality of the public service which it intends to promote in the workplace, depending on its own context,” the court said.

The court added: “However, that objective must be pursued in a consistent and systematic manner, and the measures adopted to achieve it must be limited to what is strictly necessary. It is for the national courts to verify that those requirements are complied with.”

In October last year, the EU court also ruled that internal laws by an employer prohibiting the visible wearing of all religious, philosophical or spiritual signs at work does not constitute direct discrimination, in a dispute between a Muslim woman and a Belgian company over its headscarf policy, Politico reported. (ANI)

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Draft bill seeks ‘loyalty pact’ from foreigners entering Russia

TASS did not specify what repercussions foreigners would face if they broke the agreement…reports Asian Lite News

Russia’s Internal Affairs ministry is preparing a bill that would oblige foreigners entering the country to sign a “loyalty agreement” that would bar them from discrediting official policies, the TASS state news agency reported early on Wednesday.

The agreement would be aimed at protecting Russia’s “national interests,” TASS reported, citing the document.

A foreigner entering Russia would be prohibited from “interfering with the activities of public authorities of the Russian Federation, discrediting in any form the foreign and domestic state policy of the Russian Federation, public authorities and their officials.”

Reuters could not independently verify the draft bill. The Internal Affairs ministry did not immediately respond to requests for a comment.

Since its full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has imposed a number of restrictions on foreigners from what it calls “unfriendly countries” — meaning those that have imposed sanctions on it over its war in Ukraine.

The internal affairs draft bill provides that foreigners would be prohibited from disparaging or inciting the denial of “significant moral” values, such as marriage as a union of a man and a woman, family, as well as from disseminating propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships.

Distortion of the “historical truth” about the Soviet people’s defense of the country and its contribution to the victory over fascist Germany in World War Two would also be prohibited, TASS reported.

TASS did not specify what repercussions foreigners would face if they broke the agreement.

For the draft to become law, the document has to be introduced to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, and go through committee review and several readings before being submitted to President Vladimir Putin for signing.

ALSO READ-‘Putin won’t make peace in Ukraine before 2024 polls’

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Elon Musk Invited to Witness Gaza’s Reality

A senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, extended an invitation to Musk during a press conference held in Beirut on Tuesday….reports Asian Lite News

Following Elon Musk’s visit to Israel, the tech billionaire has now been invited by Hamas to Gaza to witness the destruction of the besieged enclave territory under Israeli attacks.

According to The Guardian, Musk was invited by a senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan, during a press conference in Beirut on Tuesday.

“We invite him to visit Gaza to see the extent of the massacres and destruction committed against the people of Gaza, in compliance with the standards of objectivity and credibility,” Hamdan said.

However, in response to a post about the news inviting him, Musk stated that the situation “seems a bit dangerous there right now.”

“Seems a bit dangerous there right now, but I do believe that a long-term prosperous Gaza is good for all sides,” he wrote on X.

Musk on Monday visited the Kfar Aza in Israel, which was one of the first places to be attacked by the Hamas militant group when it launched its unprecedented attack on October 7.

More than 1,200 people have died in Israel, while over 200 others were taken as hostages.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompanied him to the residence of Ofir Liebstein, who fought back and died while fighting Hamas.

Musk has been severely criticised for anti-Semitic content on X in recent weeks. He also came under rising fire for supposed failures to combat antisemitism on X.

US President Joe Biden’s administration recently slammed Musk of repeating a “hideous lie” about Jewish people, as the X owner continues to endorse far-right viewpoints and agrees with posts that promote antisemitism.

Musk replied to a post sharing an antisemitic conspiracy theory, calling it “actual truth”.

He responded to a conspiracy theory that motivated the man who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.

ALSO READ: WHO Chief Alerts Gaza’s Disease Danger

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New UNSC membership only for developing nations, says Lavrov

According to Lavrov, all the Western sanctions that have been imposed against Russia are likely to remain after the Ukraine conflict…reports Asian Lite News

Any new United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members should come from developing countries, Russian media reported Monday, citing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Primakov Readings International Forum in Moscow.

“It is important to redress the historical injustices that emerged following the end of the decolonization process and since the emergence of many dozens of young sovereign states,” Lavrov said, noting that the composition of the UNSC should reflect the current reality.

“It is clear that any new members of the Security Council must only come from developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and they must have credibility in their regions and in global organizations such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77,” he said.

Lavrov added that Russia doesn’t need to focus on restoring relations with Europe at this moment, and must concentrate on protecting itself “in all key sectors of the economy,” and security, considering Europe’s unpredictable policies and decisions.

According to Lavrov, all the Western sanctions that have been imposed against Russia are likely to remain after the Ukraine conflict.

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‘Never forget, never forgive stance on terrorism’

Doraiswami said that India has come a long distance. “Our approach to this particularly egregious act of terror is, was, and will always be: never forget, never forgive, and never again.”…reports Asian Lite News

Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Vikram Doraiswami, emphasised on Tuesday that India’s approach to such egregious acts of terror is, was and will always be “Never forget, never forgive, and never again.”

The High Commission of India in London organised a solemn event to pay tributes to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks at the Gandhi Hall, India House in London.

Doraiswami said that India has come a long distance. “Our approach to this particularly egregious act of terror is, was, and will always be: never forget, never forgive, and never again.”

He stressed that the Indian government has put in a lot of effort, especially in the last several years, to ensure that “never again” is understood and implemented as policy, both in terms of ensuring systemic resilience and better preparedness, adding, “but also in terms of our clear messaging to the world that we will not countenance such acts of terror.”

Meanwhile, Indian High Commission in India shared on their social media X, stating, “Friends of India and members of Indian Community joined to remember the victims of 26/11/2008 #MumbaiTerrorAttack. Hon’ble MPs @CatherineWest1, @VirendraSharma and Lord Rami Ranger also attended and paid tributes. #NeverForgiveNeverForget #NeverAgain #Mumbai2611”

Moreover, while talking about how the world is reacting to Israel’s decision to identify Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) as a terror group, Mr Doraiswami highlighted that there is a greater willingness now to recognise that there has been a lot of action that is still pending from the state that primarily and significantly uses this as instrumentation of state policy.

“I think our consistent and unwavering stand is that this has to be addressed substantively through the legal and international domains. I think that is beginning to find resonance in a way never before,” he stressed.

He further added, “I think that’s an important part of the process that we must continue to follow. Having focused on the legal route and the route of applying pressure through the process by which the international community makes clear that this is unacceptable…”

Meanwhile, at the event, attendees paid tribute to the 166 lives lost in the brutal attacks on Mumbai 15 years ago.

The attendees included Catherine West, MP Labour, (House of Commons), Lord Remi Ranger (Member of the House of Lords), Virendra Sharma, MP Labour (House of Commons), and Sujit Ghosh, the Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK.

ALSO READ-India Condemns Terrorism and Civilian Loss in Israel-Hamas Conflict at UN Assembly

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Foreign care workers exploited in UK

The biggest contributor to non-EU immigration was migrants coming for work — particularly to fill shortages in the health and social care sectors — which rose to 33%…reports Asian Lite News

Overseas workers invited to Britain to plug gaps in health and social care sectors are being “exploited on a grand scale” with some being paid as little as five pounds an hour.

Around 78,000 people got visas to come to Britain and work in social care in the year to June 2023. Most of these recruits have come from Nigeria, India and Zimbabwe and are charged thousands of pounds in unexpected fees, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Ever since the Home Office added care workers to the shortage occupation list, 14 per cent of them in England are now from non-EU countries (excluding the UK), while seven per cent are from the EU.

An employer demanded 4,000 pounds for “training costs” when a migrant care worker tried to leave for a job in the NHS, and another was hit with hidden administration fees including 395 pounds for a “cultural induction”, the newspaper reported, citing Unison, a trade union.

A worker from Botswana, who was helped by Unison, said she worked in domiciliary care from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week but was paid less than half the legal minimum.

The company laid her off after losing the council care contract and now she fears being deported.

As per the rules, if a worker is laid off, or their employer shuts down, they must find a new sponsoring employer within 60 days, else face deportation — giving employers additional power over workers. Annie, a care worker from Botswana, was paid for about only six hours while she worked 15-hour days, including waiting for appointments and driving between clients.

In addition, her employer withheld much of her wages for three consecutive months, only repaying her later, and also required her to share a room with a stranger, the news report said. “The care system would implode without migrant care staff. Demonising these workers will do nothing to solve the social care crisis,” Unison general secretary, Christina McAnea, said.

“Ministers must stop being complicit in allowing this abuse to happen. The government needs to reform immigration rules, not make them more draconian,” The Guardian quoted McAnea as saying.

A government spokesperson told the Guardian that they “do not tolerate abuse in the labour market and where we identify exploitative practices being undertaken by sponsors we take action. This can include the revocation of their licence”. The incidents of exploitation come days after it was reported that immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, has drawn up options to curb immigration, including banning care workers from bringing dependants, or restricting them to one relative.

Britain’s net migration figure peaked at 745,000 in the year to December 2022 — three times higher than the level before Brexit, according to revised estimates published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Thursday.

According to the data, the biggest contributor to non-EU immigration was migrants coming for work — particularly to fill shortages in the health and social care sectors — which rose to 33 per cent, from 23 per cent in the year ending June 2022.

India was among the top three non-EU nationalities for immigration in the year to June with 35,091 Indian health and care workers bringing 47,432 relatives during the period.

Meanwhile, Unison general secretary, Christina McAnea, said: “The care system would implode without migrant care staff. Demonising these workers will do nothing to solve the social care crisis. Overseas care workers have been encouraged to come here to support those most in need, only for some employers to treat them as expendable.”

“Ministers must stop being complicit in allowing this abuse to happen. The government needs to reform immigration rules, not make them more draconian.”

One care worker who came from the Philippines, said she and others had been “dropped like we don’t exist any more” by a care company that went into administration.

“The overseas staff feel very confused and manipulated,” she told her union. “They kept the closure quiet until the last minute so they could use us until we weren’t needed any more.”

A government spokesperson said: “We do not tolerate abuse in the labour market and where we identify exploitative practices are being undertaken by sponsors we take action. This can include the revocation of their licence.

“The Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority is working with other law enforcement agencies to identify illegal working and those found operating unlawfully will face prosecution or removal from the sponsorship register.”

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French Accolades for ISRO Scientist, Indian translator

Ambassador Thierry Mathou awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian honor, to Lalithambika, former Director of the Human Spaceflight Programme at ISRO…reports Asian Lite News

The French government on Wednesday conferred its top awards on Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist Dr V R Lalithambika and acclaimed translator and author Dr Arshia Sattar.

For her engagement in space cooperation between France and India, Ambassador Thierry Mathou honoured Lalithambika, former Director, Directorate of the Human Spaceflight Programme, ISRO, with Legion d’Honneur — the country’s top civilian award.

“I am delighted to confer the Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur on Dr V.R. Lalithambika, a distinguished scientist and a trailblazer in space technology. Her expertise, accomplishments, and tireless efforts have scripted a new ambitious chapter in the long history of the Indo-French space partnership,” Ambassador Mathou said in a statement.

A specialist in advanced launch vehicle technology, Lalithambika has worked extensively on various ISRO rockets, particularly the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

In 2018, as Director of the Human Spaceflight Programme, she coordinated closely with the French National Space Agency (Centre national d’etudes spatiales – CNES) for India’s Gaganyaan project.

Lalithambika was instrumental in the signing of the first joint agreement for cooperation between CNES and ISRO on human spaceflight, under which the two countries could exchange specialists to work on space medicine.

Receiving the award, Lalithambika said: “I sincerely hope that this honour being bestowed on me will spur more and more women to take up STEM careers and to excel in their chosen fields.”

In 2021, Lalithambika coordinated with CNES for the signing of a second agreement between France and India on the Indian astronaut programme during the visit of the former French Foreign Affairs Minister to ISRO.

Under this agreement the French space agency would train India’s flight physicians and CAPCOM mission control teams in France at the CADMOS centre for the development of microgravity applications and space operations at CNES in Toulouse and at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany.

“Dr Lalithambika is an inspiration to the next generation of scientists not only in Toulouse but also in India, where she promoted inclusivity by enabling the recruitment of civilians, including women, to participate in the future of the Indian astronaut programme,” a French Embassy statement read.

Sattar was presented the insignia of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) at a special ceremony at the Consulate General of France in Bengaluru.

The distinction comes in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the field of literature as a translator and a writer as well as her deep commitment to the promotion of literature as director of the literary residency, Sangam House.

“This award honours her continued commitment to cultural relationship and cooperation between diverse literary worlds,” the Embassy said in its statement.

“It is always an important moment when the arts are recognised. It is through the arts that we better understand each other and ourselves. The arts remind us of our shared humanity and in our troubled 21st century, this is perhaps the most significant touchstone – that we are more alike than we are different. I thank the French government for acknowledging that by this award,” Sattar said after receiving the award.

In her career as a translator, Sattar has engaged with the great masterpieces of Indian literature: The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, and The Tales from Kathasaritsagara.

In addition to that, she has written several books for children, including The Mahabharata for Children, which was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Prize for Children’s Literature in 2022.

In 2008, she co-founded the literary residency, Sangam House, along with David William Gibson, with the vision of creating a supportive space for writers expressing themselves in regional languages, where they can interact with contemporaries from other cultures and share their perspectives.

Sangam House was the first literary residency of its kind, which has hosted over 200 writers from across India and the world.

It is now a member of the Villa Swagatam network of residencies — an initiative launched by the French Institute in India in March 2023, which consists of 16 Indian residencies spanned across the country, hosting residents in the fields of arts and crafts, performing arts, and literature.

Some noted Indian recipients of the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in the past include actors Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Richa Chadha, photographer Raghu Rai, theatre director Ebrahim Alkazi, playwright Habib Tanveer, and author Upamanyu Chatterjee.

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Protect Temples: Canada’s Call to Action

The leading Indo-Canadian advocacy body warns politicians of escalating threats from violent extremists within the community…reports Asian Lite News

Expressing its disappointment over no action against pro-Khalistan elements for vandalism at various Hindu temples, the Canada-India Foundation has asked politicians in the country to break their silence and rein in these radicals before it is too late.

In an open letter to the politicians, the top Indo-Canadian advocacy body says: “The threats issued by a group of violence-prone extremists to our community have taken on dangerous dimensions of late. One such self-appointed extremist leader issued a warning to Canadians not to travel on Air India in the month of November.”

Wondering why Canadian politicians and the media have ignored this threat, the letter says:“We are even more disappointed that our political leaders have maintained a total silence on this grave issue. This selective approach to dealing with terrorism and threats will not make this world a safe place.”

Calling the vandalism at Hindu temples — Ram Mandir in Mississauga, Vishnu Mandir in Richmond Hill, BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Toronto, Lakshmi Narayan Mandir in Surrey — an attack on the freedom of religion and a dangerous trend, the letter says that the extremists have started even targeting ordinary Hindus, telling them leave Canada.

Highlighting the latest incident at the Kalibari Temple in Mississauga on November 25 when the pro-Khalistan extremists disrupted a special service senior citizens by the Indian Consulate, the letter says fresh threats to the Indian diplomatic staff will impact the Indo-Canadian community and hamper progress in the bilateral relationship.

Urging the Canadian government, its law enforcement agencies and media not to ignore the targeting of Hindus, the Canada-India Foundation in its letter said: “We have written separately to the Minister of Public Safety to take immediate and decisive action… and groups that have a violent agenda are not treated with kid gloves.”

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WHO Chief Alerts Gaza’s Disease Danger

Ghebreyesus went on to say that on top of all this, there was “heightened risk of disease outbreaks”….reports Asian Lite News

Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said that overcrowding, lack of food, water, sanitation and basic hygiene are hastening the spread of disease in Gaza.

In a lengthy post on X, the WHO chief said that 1.3 million people are currently living in shelters in Gaza, where a humanitarian pause reached between Israel and Hamas is currently underway.

“Overcrowding and lack of food, water, sanitation and basic hygiene, waste management and access to medication are resulting in a high number of cases of acute respiratory infections (111,000), scabies (12,000), lice (11,000); diarrhoea (36,000), skin rash (24,000), impetigo (2,500), chickenpox (2,500); jaundice (1,100),” he said.

Ghebreyesus went on to say that on top of all this, there was “heightened risk of disease outbreaks”.

“Given the living conditions and lack of health care, more people could die from disease than bombings. We need a sustained ceasefire. Now. It’s a matter of life or death for civilians,” the WHO chief added.

Due to the overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions at UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) shelters in Gaza, there have been significant increases in some communicable diseases and conditions such as diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections, skin infections and hygiene-related conditions like lice.

There are also initial reports of disease outbreaks, including Hepatitis.

According to the UNRWA, the war has displaced up to 1.8 million people in Gaza, or nearly 80 per cent of the population.

Nearly 1.1 million IDPs are currently registered in 156 UNRWA facilities across Gaza.

Another 191,000 internally displaced persons are estimated to be staying in 124 public schools and hospitals, as well as in other venues such as wedding halls, offices, and community centres.

On Tuesday, the Gaza city municipality had warned of the health and environmental ramifications of the accumulation of more than 35 tonnes of solid waste in the city.

The solid waste cannot be transferred to the main landfill located in the vicinity of Gaza’s perimeter fence, due to prohibition by the Israeli military, the municipality said.

Meanwhile, concerns about dehydration and waterborne diseases persist due to water consumption from unsafe sources.

ALSO READ: Rescue Teams Retrieve 160 Bodies in Gaza Strip