South Asian Countries

South Korea bans export of strategic materials to Russia

Seoul [South Korea](ANI/Sputnik): South Korea has decided to join international sanctions and ban the export of strategic materials to Russia amid the situation around Ukraine, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.

“As a form of sanctions against Russia, our government has prohibited the export of strategic materials to Russia, strengthening the export verification procedure,” the ministry said in a statement.
The statement went on to say that the relevant South Korean departments will consider possible restrictions on non-strategic materials and extension of sanctions against Russia, including 57 items that are subject to the US sanctions, such as computers, sensors, aviation, and space industries and others.

Western nations have rolled out a sanctions campaign against Russia after it launched a military operation in Ukraine last Thursday, following requests for help from the people’s republics in Donbas. The Russian Defense Ministry said the operation was targeting the military infrastructure of Ukraine only and that the civilian population was not in danger. Moscow says it has no plans to occupy Ukraine and that the purpose of its operation is demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.

Delegations from Russia and Kyiv are expected to hold talks in the Gomel region in Belarus, at the Ukrainian border, in the coming hours. (ANI/Sputnik)

Imran Khan to address Pakistan on economic crisis


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the nation today over the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the country’s economy.

The development comes amid news of another imminent petrol hike in Pakistan, reported Samaa TV.
According to analysts, the price of petroleum products may increase by Pakistani Rs 8 to Rs 12 after the price of crude oil in the international market hit over USD 100 a barrel for the first time since 2014.

Earlier this month, the Imran Khan government had dropped a “petrol bomb” on the masses by increasing the prices of petroleum products by up to PKR 12.03 per litre. Petrol in Pakistan now costs PKR 159.86 per litre.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis has also fanned concerns over supplies of key commodities including wheat and metals in an already struggling economy, reported the media outlet.

On Thursday, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) released data showing that Pakistan’s Current Account Deficit (CAD) rose to an all-time high of USD 2.56 billion in the month of January 2022.

At the same time, Pakistan’s debt and liabilities hit an all-time high of Rs 51.724 trillion in December 2021 with external debt rising by a staggering 20 per cent during the first half of the current fiscal (2021-22).

Notably, the Ukraine crisis is also expected to weigh on the Pakistan currency as a large current account deficit, surging energy and oil prices, and volatility in financial markets will likely put the Pakistani rupee under pressure next week, Geo News reported.

Meanwhile, the Imran Khan government has been facing flak from both the opposition and masses over the record increase in oil prices as well as the dependency on loans and bailouts.

The massive rise in inflation in Pakistan could also result in demand destruction and may create difficulties for the government to meet its tax targets, according to a report by Dawn. (ANI)

No-confidence move against Imran Khan govt underway: Shehbaz Sharif


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday said that preparations were still underway for the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) planned no-confidence move against the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

The PDM had announced to bring a no-trust move against the PTI government on February 11 after a meeting of its constituent parties.
The PDM had said it would contact the PTI government’s allies in the centre for this purpose which was followed by several meetings in the last few weeks between the opposition parties and PTI’s allies, Dawn newspaper reported.

Responding to a question, while addressing a press conference in Lahore with Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) president Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Shehbaz said that “preparation is underway” for the no-confidence motion and he could not provide a definite date on when it will be tabled, the Pakistani newspaper said.

It further reported that Shehbaz said the move was according to the wishes of the people who were praying for deliverance from the incumbent government and they had already given the “signal” for it.

The opposition is jettisoning mutual hatred to ouster Imran Khan. PPP and PML-N have also announced separate long marches on Islamabad with the former’s starting on February 27 and the latter’s March 23. (ANI)

Pakistan: Aurat March to focus on wages, security, peace for women


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan’s Aurat March, scheduled to be held on International Women’s Day on March 8, will focus on wages, security and peace for women, local media reported.

The slogan for this year’s Aurat March on International Women’s Day is Ujrat, Tahaffuz Aur Sukoon, said social worker Sheema Kermani at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Thursday. She said this year, it will be the fifth Aurat March, Dawn newspaper reported.
After her speech, an organiser of the march put forward the three central demands saying that the march is dedicated to the labour and hard work of women and khawajasira.

The three demands include that “all workers, whether they’re working in factories, on farms and homesteads, in homes as domestic workers or as sanitation workers be given a living wage based on access to safe housing, quality education and affordable healthcare for themselves and their families. As a first step immediate reinforcement of the minimum wage across all sectors, and for all actors who refuse this to be fined under the law,” the Pakistani newspaper reported.

“The provision of social security and protection through monthly stipends for all women and khawajasira community in view of the care labour they perform and economic violence they are subjected to,” Dawn newspaper reported.

“The state prioritise the welfare of the child by putting an end to child labour, trafficking for work, and bonded labour. The government should provide childcare and protection centres and child support services in every district of Karachi and in the rest of Sindh,” the Pakistani newspaper reported. (ANI)

South Korea: Samsung, LG, POSCO, Hyundai Motor closely eye Russia-Ukraine crisis

Seoul [South Korea]: As Russia has ordered operations in Ukraine, Korean companies have been also impacted. Korean companies have returned their expatriates from Ukraine, and are closely watching the situation.

According to the industry on the 22nd, Samsung Electronics, which operates a local unit in Ukraine, has ordered its expatriates and their families to move to Korea or nearby countries. Korean employees working at Samsung AI Research Center in Kiev also moved to other countries or returned to Korea.
LG Electronics and POSCO also have returned expatriates and their families to Korea first and temporarily relocated other Korean employees in Ukraine to Korea or nearby countries.

This is because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a Level 4 travel warning and banned the travel to all regions in Ukraine. Under the Level 4, Koreans and Korean companies should leave the country immediately.

However, considering that it is difficult to re-enter the local market after complete withdrawal, the companies are continuing to run their businesses in Ukraine. Local employees are currently working from home and communicating online. LG Electronics is also continuing its business with local employees.

POSCO International, which operates a grain terminal business in Ukraine, is also working as usual but has put the new projects on hold.

A business official said, “We will keep monitoring to decide whether to respond or not. As the U.S. and Europe are likely to impose sanctions on Russia, we are keeping a close eye on the situation.”

Airlines are also paying keen attention. Airlines are currently operating their flights on a route bypassing Ukrainian airspace, and considering suspending flights in accordance with the authorities’ guidelines.

Korean companies in Russia have not yet consider withdrawing but they also are concerned about impacts of Ukraine crisis. Supply disruptions of raw materials and local production delays are expected. As of last year, Russia is the 10th largest country in trade with Korea, accounting for about 1.6% of total exports and 2.8% of imports.

Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, and Hyundai Motor, which have factories in Russia, are currently continuing the production at local plants. Samsung Electronics operates a TV plant in Kaluga near Moscow, Russia, and LG Electronics operates a TV and home appliance plant in Luza near Moscow. Hyundai Motor has production facilities in St. Petersburg.

The three companies said there is no problem with operation in Russia. However, if the Russia-Ukraine war breaks out, the demand is expected to rapidly decrease, having a serious impact on profits. In addition, there are concerns about worsening profitability and supply chain disruptions due to ruble weakness.

Currently, companies are keeping monitoring the situation. An official from the company said “There are limitations for corporate responses in this urgent situation. We continue to operate plants as usual.” (ANI/Global Economic)

Pakistan PM Imran Khan arrives in Moscow on two-day visit amid the Ukraine crisis


Islamabad : Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan landed in Moscow late on Wednesday on a two-day visit amid the ongoing crisis at the Ukraine-Russia border.

This comes as tension continues to escalate after Russia’s recognition of eastern Ukrainian enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk. As a response to Moscow’s actions, several Western nations hit Russia with fresh sanctions for its military deployment into parts of eastern Ukraine.
Imran Khan’s ill-timed visit, the first such trip by a Pakistani PM in 23 years, aims to push for the construction of a long-delayed, multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies.

The Pakistan Prime Minister is also scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit and discuss issues concerning economic cooperation.

Earlier, Pakistani media reports had said that Moscow and Islamabad were in talks to finalise a plan for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit this year.

A Pakistani newspaper said Putin’s visit was under discussion for the last two years but could not materialise because of several reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Moscow also wants that there must be “big-ticket projects” that the Russian president would announce.

Before Imran Khan’s departure, a Pakistani geopolitical analyst had pointed out that the visit did not come at a suitable time.

Analyst and Balochistan politician Jan Achakzai noted that Russia didn’t seek Pakistan’s support, nor did the US stop Pakistan from going to Moscow. He also said that Russia is not going to give Pakistan anything because Moscow losing India for the sake of Islamabad’s support is not an option.

The Charge d’Affaires of the Russian Embassy in Delhi on Wednesday stressed that Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow would in no way affect relations between India and Russia.

Addressing an online briefing in New Delhi, he also welcomed India’s stand at the Security Council on the ongoing developments in Ukraine. (ANI)

Pakistan: Government faces backlash over Ordinances to push ‘draconian laws’


Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): The Imran Khan government is facing heavy backlash from all quarters for amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 through the promulgation of an Ordinance.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) moved a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) stating that the promulgation of the ordinance is based on “malice” as the required conditions have not been met by the government, local media reported on Wednesday.
“No emergency situations had arisen which called for the issuance of an Ordinance of this nature as it could have waited till the session of the National Assembly,” the petitioner argued as quoted by The News International.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP), Khalid Javed Khan while talking to Geo News criticised the Ordinance, saying that “the PECA (amendment) Ordinance will be draconian if it comes into force.”

“Since coming to power in 2018, the PTI has regrettably placed greater reliance on Presidential Ordinances to bring in laws of its own liking,” said The Dawn in an editorial on Wednesday, further pointing out that the Imran Khan government has introduced more than 75 Ordinances since coming to power in 2018.

The Ordinance was signed by President Arif Alvi on Sunday, after approval of the Cabinet. Under the Ordinance, the definition of a “person” has been broadened to include any company, association, institution, organization, authority, or any other. Furthermore, anyone found guilty of attacking a person’s “identity” will now be sentenced to five years instead of three years.

Another Ordinance was signed to amend the country’s election laws, allowing any person holding any office under the Constitution or any other law to visit or address public meetings in “any area or constituency”.

On Monday, the Islamabad High court, lambasted the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for wrongly invoking the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and PECA to arrest journalist Mohsin Jameel Baig asking “Has a martial law been imposed in this country?” the Court observed. (ANI)(instagram)

Pak PM summons three high-level meetings ahead of Oppn’s long march


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has summoned three high-level meetings on Monday to discuss matters related to the Opposition’s long march and current political situation of the country.

Imran Khan will chair Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) central executive committee meeting tomorrow at PM House.
This is a major development in Pakistan’s politics as the meeting is called just ahead of the Opposition’s long march. Notably, the opposition parties have formed a committee to move a no-confidence motion against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government in Punjab province.

The opposition party PML-N has mobilised all its MNAs, MPAs, ticket holders and office bearers to bring a no-confidence motion in Punjab province.

Pakistan opposition is jettisoning mutual hatred to ouster Khan. They are planning a no-confidence motion or street protests or even a combination of both in a joint fight against Khan’s misgovernance.

Opposition parties like Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the allies of Imran Khan – Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) are setting aside their differences to ouster ‘Kaptaan’ (Imran Khan).

PPP and PML-N have announced separate long marches on Islamabad with the former’s starting on February 27 and the latter’s March 23.

Imran Khan’s meeting will finalise strategy regarding PPP’s and other opposition parties long marches. (ANI)

China to impose sanctions on US firms for Taiwan arms deal


Beijing [China] (ANI): In retaliation to US arms sales to Taiwan, China has decided to impose sanctions on American defence companies Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China would continue to take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty.
The US earlier this month had approved a possible USD 100 million sales of equipment and services to Taiwan to “sustain” and “improve” the Patriot missile defence system used by the self-governing island.

The announcement drew a reaction from China and it advised the US against the arms deal. China had warned that it would take necessary actions to protect its sovereignty.

“China will take countermeasures against Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, which participated in a USD 100 million-worth sale of US arms to the island of Taiwan, a move that severely harmed China’s sovereignty and security interests,” Wang told a briefing on Monday, as quoted by the state media tabloid Global Times.

After the US approved the arms sales to Taiwan, Taipei thanked Washington for taking concrete actions to meet its security commitments stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances.

“It not only demonstrates the significance the US government continues to place on Taiwan’s defence capabilities but also shows the rock-solid Taiwan-US partnership,” Taiwan News quoted Taiwan’s Presidential Office Spokesperson Xavier Chang as saying.

This is the second weapons sale since President Biden took office and the first arms deal this year. (ANI)

Billions of dollars stashed by Pakistani Generals, officials in Swiss Bank, Imran Khan in trouble


Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): A leak of data from a leading Swiss bank has revealed information about 600 accounts linked to 1400 Pakistani citizens, media reports said on Sunday.

Account-holders include several key politicians and generals, including the ex-ISI chief, General Akhtar Abdur Rahman Khan, according to data leaked from Credit Suisse, an investment banking firm registered in Switzerland.
A report published in The New York Times said Khan helped funnel billions of dollars in cash and other aid from the United States and other countries to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to support their fight against the Soviet Union.

The Saudi Arabian and US funding for mujahideen fighters battling Russia’s presence in Afghanistan went to the American Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Swiss bank account, the Dawn newspaper reported, citing an Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) report.

“The end recipient in the process was Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence group (ISI), [at the time] led by Akhtar,” the publication quoting the report said.

The average maximum balance in accounts held by Pakistanis was 4.42 million Swiss francs, The News International newspaper reported.

The Pakistani publication further noted that several politically exposed persons didn’t mention these accounts which they opened at a time when they were holders of public office, in their assets declaration submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The latest leaks follow the so-called Panama Papers in 2016, the Paradise Papers in 2017 and the Pandora Papers of last year. A self-described whistle-blower leaked data on more than 18,000 bank accounts, collectively holding more than $100 billion, to the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, reported The New York Times.

Further revelations are expected in the upcoming days, as more information about the leak becomes public.

Earlier in January, Pakistan ranked 140 out of 180 on Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2021 by Transparency International, losing 16 spots over the previous year. (ANI)

Dozens injured in protests against US grant pact as it is tabled in Nepal Parliament


Kathmandu [Nepal]: Dozens were injured in a violent protest against US grant assistance agreement worth 500 million USD as the Nepal government tabled it in Parliament seeking its ratification.

The violent clash which ensued near parliament since the morning of Sunday, left 17 personnel from Nepal Police and 7 from Armed Police Force injured, both the security agencies confirmed.
“Dozens of protestors have also been injured in clashes as they breached the perimeter and entered restricted zone near the parliament. We have arrested over four dozen protestors from the site as well,” Santosh Singh Rathore, spokesperson at the Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari told ANI over the phone.

Protests in Nepal

The violent mob that marched towards the parliament pelted stones on police sloganeering against the government and US aid pact which was tabled during Sunday’s parliamentary meeting. In order to control the situation, the police also used 115 shells of tear gas as well as 30 rounds of rubber bullets as the protest continued for about 8 hours.

Apparently driven by disinformation, the public in Nepal are made to believe the MCC, a US Foreign Assistance Agency aiming to fight poverty, is a military pact. The subsequent effort of US mission in Nepal also has failed to quell it down.

The government under Sher Bahadur Deuba’s leadership, however, on Sunday tabled the MCC proposal formally opening the doors for parliamentary discussion and endorsement.

Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki tabled US grant Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact in federal parliament on Sunday.

“This proposal has been sent by US aid agency, MCC to Government of Nepal to build 400 KV capacity electricity transmission line and to improve as well as upgrade various road sections across the nation. The assistance that would be provided will stand at 500 million US Dollar in grant. Government of Nepal and MCC had signed an agreement on September 14, 2017, projects that would be undertaken through this pact should be completed within 5 years from the date of its adoption. Before this pact enters the phase of entry into force, it requires the majority of the House of Representatives and had been suggested by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, this proposal therefore has been presented forward for discussion and endorsement,” Minister Karki said.

While the Nepali Congress (NC) is already in favour of ratifying MCC, the CPN (Maoist Center) and the CPN (Unified Socialist), were of the view of not submitting it without amendment.

On Sunday, the lawmakers from the ruling as well as the opposition parties continued their protest in the parliament against the proposal as it underwent process of tabulation.

After Minister Karki tabled MCC in parliament, Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota announced that the next meeting of House of Representatives would take place on Thursday, February 24. The MCC Compact will now be discussed in Parliament.

After the discussion, the lawmakers usually have time to propose amendments. However, such amendment applies only to the comments raised by the Government of Nepal or to any modification/amendment that may be made.

Amendments to the MCC do not currently exist. Therefore, the Speaker will decide from the discussion of the Business Advisory Committee whether to give 120 hours or five days given by the rules for making amendments.

Meanwhile, the US has conveyed to Kathmandu that it would be forced to review its relations with Nepal if the country fails to keep up with its commitments on the USD 500 million MCC grant signed nearly five years ago.

Earlier this month, US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu said that Washington will review its relations with Nepal in the event of its failure to ratify the MCC compact from Parliament by February 28.

The US government aid agency, MCC had agreed in 2017 to provide USD 500 million in grants cross-border electricity transmission and road connectivity. There has been a delay in Parliament approval for the project due to disagreements among political parties.

The multi-million dollar pact which needs to be ratified by parliament is being contested now as political parties of Nepal debated on whether to accept or reject it. Earlier, MCC vice president Fatema Z Sumar had said that the February 28 deadline was set by Prime Minister Deuba and Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal through a letter the two leaders dispatched to the MCC Board chairman, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

However, the MCC continues to hang in balance as successive governments in Nepal have failed to get the grant ratified by the parliament. (ANI)(image -instagramNepal)

Pakistan students continue protest to lift ban on unions, reduction in fees


Lahore [Pakistan] (ANI): Students in Pakistan continued their sit-in at Charing Cross on Friday to protest against the ban on student unions imposed by former president General Zia-ul-Haq.

Progressive Students Collective (PSC) has entered its ninth day on Thursday, demanding a revival of the student unions, reduction in fee and withdrawal of security forces from the campuses, local media reported on Friday.
On Thursday, the Aurat March Lahore organisers visited the week-long sit-in to show solidarity with the students fighting for their rights for a better future.

PPP parliamentary leader in Punjab Assembly Syed Hassan Murtaza also visited the student’s camp and supported their demands for the restoration of the unions across the country. He said a bill for the restoration of the unions would be tabled in the next session of the assembly, supporting all demands of the students.

Notably, the demonstrations started on February 9 to mark the 38th anniversary of the ban on student unions.

The protesters asked all political parties to unanimously pass legislation in parliament to decriminalise student politics. Pakistan Bar Council member Abid Saqi said that Ziaul era banned the student unions to close the door of politics on students.

A number of students have established a camp which has been visited by social and political workers, lawyers, members of the Punjab Assembly, journalists and students from different colleges and universities, reported Dawn. (ANI)(image -instagram)

Pakistan: Shahbaz Sharif slams Imran Khan govt for rising foreign debt, inflation


Islamabad [Pakistan](ANI): Pakistan’s Leader of Opposition and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) President Shahbaz Sharif, on Tuesday, slammed Imran Khan government for accepting huge amounts of international loans saying that the inflation has never been so high in the country.

He further said that Prime Minister Imran Khan should worry about the country’s crippling economy rather than political meetings of the opposition parties, reported Geo TV. “Throughout the history of this country, inflation has never been as high as it is now,” he said
Shahbaz replied, “The prime minister should focus on the country’s inflation rate, unemployment and the catastrophic situation of the economy.”

“Corruption worth billions of rupees is happening under the nose of the government,” he criticised the government for the sugar and wheat scams, reported the News Channel.

During a press conference, last week, Shahbaz said that Prime Minister is not concerned about the problems of the masses but is only concerned about the Opposition. Sharif had also lashed out at Imran Khan, accusing him of turning a blind eye to Karachi’s problems.

“Life has become hard for people due to additional taxes, rising electricity prices,” he said.

Furthermore, Earlier, PML-N announced that they will lead a long march against the ruling PTI government from Karachi to Islamabad on February 27. (ANI)

Pakistan: Young Baloch rebel killed by Pakistani army in Gwadar


Balochistan [Pakistan] (ANI): In a clash between Baloch and Pakistani army in Shadi Kaur area of Pasni tehsil of Gwadar district, a young rebel Sarmachar Hidayatullah was killed on Monday, according to local media.

Radio Zrumbesh Urdu reported that gunship helicopters were also dispatched from Turbat to assist the Pakistani army after the clash.
The death of Hidayatullah was confirmed by his brother Kifayat Baloch who shared his picture on his Twitter account.

He tweeted, “Hon Plugdin Bachani Rich Ant. Gulzamin Banuri Stra Posh Ayat.” It translates to “When the blood of the well-dressed children falls on the ground, Gulzamin covers herself like a bride.”

Kifayatullah further told the staff reporter of Radio Zarmbash that he is proud of his brother. He said, “My brother was younger than me but he always encouraged me.”

He said that suffering and hunger should be tolerated, this is a war in which everyone should make their own sacrifice, this is the duty of everyone. (ANI)(instagram Image)

Valentine’s Day : Universities in Pakistan issue weird circulars, youth shocked


Islamabad [Pakistan](ANI): At a time when the world is celebrating love and friendship, weird circulars of Pakistani Universities on Valentine’s Day are going viral.

Most of the Universities in Pakistan have fixed rules and protocols to restrict students from taking part in associated activities today.
Islamic International Medical College in Rawalpindi has strictly ordered the male students to wear white prayer caps on the day, while female students have been instructed to properly cover their heads, necks, and chests with a hijab according to the university dress code.

The circular issued has warned that members of the college staff would be patrolling the campus to punish the students violating these rules.

Those breaching the guidelines would be fined PKR 5000.

Gender mixing is strictly forbidden and male and female students should be at a minimum distance of 2 metres at all times.

Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad which has issued the same kind of circular has mentioned Valentine’s day as “Haya Day”.

Those not following the rules will be fined PKR 3000 by the administration.

Another public university, “University of Peshawar” has announced a holiday on occasion.

The circular says that the university will be closed on February 14 in lieu of February 5, Kashmir Day, for keeping the university open for arranging discussions, seminars, and workshops.

Almost all universities of Pakistan have issued such a notice which has divided social media users with some tweeting in favour and others vehemently against it. (ANI)

South Korea registers 367,927 COVID-19 infections in vaccinated people


Seoul [South Korea] (ANI/Xinhua): South Korea registered a total of more than 360,000 breakthrough COVID-19 infections in vaccinated people, the health authorities said Monday.

The number of those who tested positive for COVID-19 after receiving two vaccine doses came in at 367,927 as of Feb. 6, up from 282,018 a week earlier, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
It accounted for 0.845 percent of the fully vaccinated people that reached 43,545,686 of the 52 million population. Among the cases, the number of critically ill patients was 2,708 and the death toll stood at 1,608.

It is known that people can be protected from the virus two weeks after the full vaccination.

The number of those who were infected with COVID-19 after receiving booster shots was 93,054 on Feb. 6, taking up 0.372 percent of the total 25,040,643 who got the booster jabs.

The number of critically ill patients who received booster shots was 157, and the death toll came to 91.

In the latest tally, the country reported 54,619 more COVID-19 cases for the past 24 hours, lifting the total number of infections to 1,405,246.

The daily caseload stayed above 50,000 for the fifth straight day amid the spread of the Omicron variant. (ANI/Xinhua)

Pakistan: Drugs worth USD 1.4 billion seized from vacant plot in Karachi


Karachi [Pakistan](ANI): Pakistan’s Sindh Excise Taxation and Narcotics Control Department confiscated drugs worth USD 1.4 billion from a vacant plot situated in Karachi’s Surjani Town on Sunday.

The anti-narcotics department launched an operation in Surjani Town’s Sector 70-D, recovered drugs and apprehended one person from the crime scene, reported ARY News.
Mukesh Kumar Chawla, Sindh Minister for Excise & Taxation and Narcotics Control Department, said the heroin was concealed in plastic bags during a news briefing. According to him, a case has been filed against the accused, and additional investigation is underway.

Pakistan is one of the highest drug-consuming nations in Southwest Asia. Drug abuse is taking a heavy toll on the youth in Pakistan, especially students, and fuelling a life of addiction and crime.

The country’s Anti-Narcotics force has said that children as young as 9-12 have already started consuming tobacco and some as young as 13 and 14 are said to be turning to drugs.

In a similar incident earlier this month, the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) found 360 kilograms of heroin at the Karachi seaport terminal during an operation.

According to an ANF spokesperson, the ANF conducted a raid at the port after receiving a tip-off and found 360 kilograms of heroin from cargo containers booked for the United Kingdom, reported the news channel.

The spokesperson further stated that containers were seized and the officials thoroughly searched the cargoes in containers.

“1200 sanitary pipes were found suspected during the search of the cargo,” the spokesperson added. (ANI)

China imposes curbs on domestic TV industry, limits performers’ payment not to exceed 40 per cent of total show cost


Beijing [China] (ANI): China has imposed fresh curbs on the domestic TV industry, regulating that performers’ total payment must not exceed 40 per cent of a show’s production cost while the principal performers’ payment shall not exceed 70 per cent of the performers’ total pay, reported Global Times.

China’s State Administration of Radio and Television on Friday issued the requirements for the development plan of TV dramas, opposing sky-high remuneration, yin-yang contracts (contract that conceals the real payment of stars), tax evasion, vicious competition and market monopoly, and preventing the disorderly expansion of capital; and requiring TV dramas to serve diplomatic and foreign propaganda work and strengthen overseas influence.
The plan mentioned that it is necessary to strengthen the cost management and accounting of TV dramas, and standardize the order of income distribution including actors’ remuneration. The total remuneration of all actors of each TV series shall not exceed 40 per cent of the total production cost and the remuneration of the main actors shall not exceed 70 per cent of the total actor’s remuneration.

The plan emphasizes that illegal and immoral artists are prohibited from appearing in TV dramas and it is necessary to regulate the brokers and brokerage companies in the TV drama industry and implement industry-wide punishments for those who violate the laws and regulations.

The TV drama industry needs to strengthen employee training and ideological and political guidance and clarify the red line and bottom line.

The plan pointed out that the development goal of Chinese TV dramas is to focus on the vision of building China into a cultural power by 2035.

The creation of TV dramas should be guided by Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era. The key point is to launch works that praise the motherland and heroes and use TV series to tell the story of the Chinese Communist Party’s governance of the country.

At the same time, all localities are encouraged to explore themes with local characteristics such as border frontiers and rural areas. It clearly requires that the Chinese TV drama industry should serve the diplomatic and publicity work, deepen international cooperation and exchanges, establish a cultural exchange mechanism with foreign countries. (ANI)

Pak reports 3,206 new COVID cases, 41 deaths in last 24 hours


Islamabad [Pakistan], (ANI): Pakistan reported a total of 3,206 new COVID-19 cases and 41 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) data on Sunday.

With this latest data, the death toll has reached 29,772. The number of coronavirus patients in critical care at various hospitals across the country stands at 1,623, reported ARY News.
Sindh province remained top on the list with 555,920 COVID-19 so far since the outbreak of the pandemic in February 2020. Punjab follows with 493,478 cases, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reported 207,820 coronavirus cases to date.

Moreover, Islamabad has registered 132,711 coronavirus cases, while Balochistan stands with 34,986 overall cases. The infection rate increased to 5.79 per cent from yesterday’s 5.35 per cent, reported the news channel. (ANI)(image -instagram)

‘Time to end arbitrary detentions’, says UN after release of two reporters by Taliban


Kabul [Afghanistan], (ANI): The UN Mission in Afghanistan has welcomed the release of the two reporters by Afghanistan’s de facto authorities after more than four days in custody.

Taliban had detained at least nine foreigners in Kabul, including one American and several British citizens, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing relatives of the detainees and sources familiar with the matter.
Two of those detained, both journalists, were released late Friday.

“UNAMA welcomes the release of the reporters by Afghanistan’s de facto authorities. Time to end all arbitrary detentions. No Afghan or int’l journalist, nor civil society activist, should be picked up & held incommunicado. Time to free all those wrongly incarcerated,” said UN Mission in Afghanistan.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is relieved to confirm the release in Kabul of the two journalists on assignment with UNHCR, and the Afghan nationals working with them.

“We are relieved to confirm the release in Kabul of the two journalists on assignment with UNHCR, and the Afghan nationals working with them. We are grateful to all who expressed concern and offered help. We remain committed to the people of Afghanistan,” said UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

On Friday, the UNHCR had confirmed the detentions after news of them began to leak on social media. The news came as concerns grow over reports of arbitrary arrests since the Taliban recaptured power in August.

Earlier, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns over an apparent “pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as torture and ill-treatment” in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. (ANI)

As Imran govt imposes taxes on agriculture sector, farmers in Pakistan to take to streets next week


Lahore [Pakistan](ANI): Farmers in Pakistan have announced to take to streets next week as the Imran Khan government imposed taxes on the agriculture sector, rising prices of fertilisers and other farm inputs, reported local media.

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) activists, along with their children, livestock and poultry will protest on February 14 in Multan against the imposition of taxes on the agriculture sector, costlier fertiliser and other farm inputs, reported Dawn.
The protest is being called ‘Speechless Animals and Helpless Farmers’ by the farmers association. The PKI has vowed to take the protest to other districts of the province and later move towards the federal capital.

PKI chief Khalid Mahmood Khokhar said that the farmer next week on Monday will be mourning to save the future of their children, coming generations and the economy of their beloved motherland.

Khokhar also said that the representatives of the farmers held a series of meetings with the government authorities to protest a 17 per cent general sales tax on farm produce.

They also opposed 3 per cent GST on seeds, high rates of electricity billing for tubewells, manifold increase in diesel and fertiliser prices in the wake of Supplementary Finance Bill 2021 but to no avail as they were told the steps were being taken on IMF directions.

Farmers argue that as they have never benefited from the loans and borrowings by the government from the IMF, why they are forced to pay high taxes on seeds, electricity and diesel as per demands of international money lenders, according to Dawn. (ANI)(laest news-Image -KshvidInstagram)

China encroaching along Nepal border, says report


Kathmandu [Nepal]: A Nepalese government report has accused China of encroaching into western Nepal along their shared border.

The report was commissioned in September last year after reports emerged that China has been trespassing in the district of Humla.
This committee was formed under the Home Ministry Joint Secretary to study the dispute over the Nepal-China border. The team studied border pillars, especially in the Limi valley, and initial findings confirmed that there were some serious border issues between Nepal and China.

Nepal’s Hindu Civic Society, Rastriya Ekata Abhiyan on Monday handed over a memorandum to the UN, saying that China has encroached on their land in the Humla district and urged the international community to pay attention to Chinese land grabbing.

Ekta Abhiyan chairperson Binay Yadav handed over the memorandum to UN Resident Coordinator Richard Howard in Kathmandu, Khabarhub reported. The civic society organisation also urged the Nepali Congress-led government to take action as suggested by the committee formed under its initiation.

“According to the study, the area between pillar number 5 (2) and the middle of the Kit Khola has been marked as the border between the two countries since the 1963 Boundary Protocol,” the Rastriya Ekta Abhiyan’s appeal said. However, the Chinese side has erected fences and wires in Nepali land.

Despite all evidence on the ground, the report is now pending with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Surprisingly, Kathmandu remains silent over China’s expansionist approach in the Himalayan nation despite reports indicating illegal encroachments in bordering districts including Humla, Gorkha, Darchula, Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk.

Last month, Rastriya Ekata Abhiyan burnt pictures of the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi in the capital city protesting China’s “increased interference” in Nepal’s internal matters.

Demonstrators also lambasted the Chinese Ambassador for interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs and imposing an unannounced blockade in Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani. The protesters also raised slogans against Chinese Ambassador Yanqi. (ANI)(Image-Instagram)

Avalanche in Afghanistan kills 15 people trying to cross Durand Line, many missing


Kabul [Afghanistan]: An avalanche in Kunar province in Afghanistan on Sunday killed 15 people and as per the authorities, all the victims were trying to cross the Durand Line and enter Pakistan.

Afghanistan is experiencing the wettest winter in the past 15 years as snowfall and rainfall have been seen in the whole country, reported Khaama Press while quoting Bakhtar News agency.
Local residents said that 15 people have so far been confirmed dead while five others are still trapped under the snow.

Rescue operations are still underway. Earlier, an avalanche inflicted casualties to over twenty people in western Afghanistan, reported the news agency.

When the Taliban took over the Afghan capital Kabul, in August last year, many in Islamabad cheered. However disagreements have emerged over the demarcation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and support for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The Durand Line was demarcated between British-ruled India and Afghanistan in 1893. Since the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, Kabul has not only objected to the border demarcation but has also challenged the inclusion of Pashtun tribal areas within Pakistani borders tensions. (ANI)

Malaysia reports 9,117 new COVID-19 infections, 14 more deaths


Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia] (ANI/Xinhua): Malaysia reported 9,117 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Saturday, bringing the national total to 2,904,131, according to the health ministry.

The new cases included 134 imported cases, with 8,983 being local transmissions, data released on the ministry’s website showed.

A further 14 deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 32,025.

The ministry reported 6,546 new recoveries, bringing the total number of cured and discharged to 2,806,154.

There are 65,952 active cases, 123 are being held in intensive care and 67 of those are in need of assisted breathing.

The country reported 73,328 vaccine doses administered on Saturday and 79.9 per cent of the population have received at least one dose, 78.8 per cent are fully vaccinated and 37.7 per cent have received boosters. (ANI/Xinhua)

Earthquake in Kabul: 5.7 magnitude quake hits Afghanistan-Tajikistan border


Kabul [Afghanistan] (ANI): An earthquake of magnitude 5.7 jolted Afghanistan-Tajikistan Border Region on Saturday, reported National Center for Seismology.

It said that the epicentre was at the depth of 181km.
According to NCS, the earthquake was determined at 36.340 degrees latitude and 71.05 longitudes.

No casualties have been reported so far. (ANI)(Image -Instagram agency)

Winter Olympics:Chinese President Xi declares 24th Olympic Winter Games open

Beijing [China], (ANI): Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the 24th Olympic Winter Games open, according to local media on Friday.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach expressed his gratitude toward China for making these Olympic Winter Games happen amid the pandemic, Xinhua News Agency reported.
“Unfortunately, the global pandemic is still a reality for all of us. Therefore, our gratitude is even deeper for the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee, the public authorities, and all the Chinese people. Thank you for making these Olympic Winter Games happen – and making them happen in a safe way for everyone,” said Bach.

The Chinese Olympic delegation entered the opening ceremony with skeleton athlete Zhao Dan and speed skater Gao Tingyu as the flagbearers for the host nation.

The Chinese contingent includes 177 athletes, the country’s largest-ever presence at the Winter Olympics.

As an Olympic tradition, Greece, which hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, was the first team to start the parade of athletes into the Bird’s Nest Stadium.

China, as hosts, marched in last; future Olympic Winter Games hosts Italy (Milano-Cortina 2026) entered the second-from-last under a change approved by the IOC Executive Board in December 2019, Xinhua said.

Other than that, athletes entered in the stroke order of their team names as written in the Chinese characters, with Turkey following Greece.

The teams were led by a placard bearer dressed in costumes with ice and snow patterns. The placards, in the shape of a glowing snowflake with National/Regional Olympic Committee names on them, are inspired by the “Chinese knot,” which is an ancient Chinese craft of hand knitting, symbolizing solidarity and prosperity.

The Winter Games opening ceremony started. The program was divided into 15 segments, including the parade of athletes and the lighting of the Olympic flame.

As the ceremony started, the lights dimmed and a 24-second countdown followed.

The opening day of the 2022 Winter Olympics coincides with the first of the 24 solar terms “Beginning of Spring”, which is also the first of the 24 solar terms of the year. It is used to count down the last seconds before the ceremony, reflecting the Chinese people’s understanding of time.

A pre-show presented by square dancers aged from five to over 70 years old began at the Bird’s Nest Stadium.

“Square Dance” was originally created by ordinary Chinese people and has become very popular. On public squares in large cities or small towns, people spontaneously gather together to joyfully sing and dance in their off-time.

This choreographed performance showcased the passion of the Chinese people, welcoming the Olympic Winter Games, the news agency reported. (ANI)(image-instagram)

Chinese President Xi Jinping to launch Beijing Winter Olympics with Vladimir Putin, Imran Khan


Beijing [China](ANI): Chinese Xi Jinping is set to launch the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 in a grand ceremony on Friday along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Xi will declare the fortnight-long games open in a ceremony at the Bird’s Nest National Stadium here which was built for and launched the summer Olympics in 2008 as well. Also as in 2008, the lavish opening ceremony is being directed by the renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou.
The 2022 Winter Olympics will take place in Beijing from February 4 to 20.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Thomas Bach President of the International Olympics Committee, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan are among the foreign dignitaries attending the event.

The presence of a large number of foreign guests comes as the COVID-19 cases are on the rise in China and Winter Olympics games faces risks of air pollution.

Meanwhile, US was among the first countries to announce its intention not to send any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights issues in China.

This decision has been backed by other US allies, including the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia. However, athletes from these respective nations are still free to participate in the event.

Meanwhile, India has also chosen to diplomatically not attend the event and described as “regrettable” China choosing to field a People Liberation Army’s commander involved in the Galwan Valley clash as its torchbearer for the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Further, India on Thursday expressed regret that Beijing has chosen to politicise an event like the Olympics and said its charge d’affaires will not be attending the opening or closing ceremony of the event.

“It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicise an event like the Olympics. I wish to inform you that our charge d’affaires of the embassy of India in Beijing will not be attending the opening or closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympics,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at the weekly media briefing.

India’s National Broadcaster Doordarshan News has also decided to boycott the event.

Earlier, a Chinese state media report said a PLA commander, who had suffered severe injuries during the Galwan clash will be a torchbearer at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

A US lawmaker on Wednesday slammed China for choosing the PLA commander for Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics torch relay.

“It’s shameful that Beijing chose a torchbearer for the Olympics2022 who’s part of the military command that attacked India in 2020 and is implementing genocide against the Uyghurs. The US will continue to support Uyghur freedoms and the sovereignty of India,” said Senator Jim Risch, a Republican who is a Ranking Member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A report in an Australian investigative newspaper has revealed that China is hiding its losses in the Galwan Valley clash with India. The new research has shown that the PLA lost at least nine times more soldiers than its official count of four.

At least 38 PLA troops drowned while crossing a fast-flowing, sub-zero river in darkness, according to an article in the ‘The Klaxon’ which cited a report prepared by a group of social media researchers after a year-long investigation. (ANI)(instagram)

Pakistan’s trade deficit exceeds annual target in current fiscal year


Islamabad [Pakistan],(ANI): Pakistan’s trade deficit widened to USD 28.8 billion in the first seven months of the current fiscal year more than the annual target set by the federal government further increasing the foreign borrowing requirement to bridge the yawning gap.

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) released data on Wednesday which showed that the trade deficit during the July-January period of the current fiscal year was USD 13.8 billion, or 92 per cent more than the same period of the previous year, as noted by Express Tribune.
The government had set the annual trade deficit target at USD 28.4 billion that it breached in the seventh month of the fiscal year.

The government’s external sector projections are heavily dependent on the trade deficit estimates. The higher deficit will now require more foreign borrowing compared to the government’s initial estimates.

Pakistan’s federal government has already taken USD 10.4 billion in foreign loans during the first half of the current fiscal year, as analysed by Express Tribune.

The central bank’s foreign currency reserves are constantly on the decline and dipped further to USD 16.1 billion due to the increasing trade deficit.

On the other hand, imports in the July-January period increased 59 USD to USD 46.5 billion. In absolute terms, the imports grew USD 17.2 billion, according to the PBS.

The central bank has introduced a cash margin requirement (CMR) for more imported goods besides curtailing consumer financing to ease the import pressure.

For the first time, a slowdown was witnessed in imports, as the monthly bill was USD 1.7 billion less than the preceding month.

However, it is not clear whether the slowdown is temporary or will take hold in the coming months. Exports increased 24 per cent in the first seven months of the current fiscal year and stood at USD 17.7 billion as compared to USD 14.3 billion in the same period of previous year, according to the PBS. In absolute terms, there was an increase of USD 3.4 billion in exports.

During the period under review, exports were equal to 67 per cent of the annual target of USD 26.3 billion, indicating that the target will be met comfortably.

The Ministry of Commerce now projects exports to touch USD 31 billion in the full fiscal year. In January 2022, imports were registered at USD 5.9 billion, showing an increase of USD 1.1 billion or nearly one-fourth over a year ago.

Consequently, the trade deficit widened 26.5 per cent year-on-year to USD 3.4 billion in January, as noted by Express Tribune. Image(instagram)

Pak industrialists demand gas supply restoration, say ‘country would suffer turmoil’


Islamabad [Pakistan], (ANI): Demanding that gas be restored to all industrial sectors in Pakistan’s Karachi, hundreds of industrialists protested outside the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) headquarters on Wednesday, reported Dawn.

They appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to respond immediately to the constitutional right of the business community of Karachi.
The industrialists feared that if such an unsettling scenario persisted, the country would suffer turmoil as a result of industry closures and huge unemployment.

The protesters, who included the leadership of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and the Businessmen Group (BMG), warned that the campaign would continue until all industrial facilities were fully restored.

Earlier, SSGC management presented a list of around 189 industries suspected to be involved in the use of illegal devices and the governor took serious notice and ordered immediate disconnection of gas to all units involved in the criminal activity.

Notably, SSGC said it had suspended gas supply to 225 industries.

BMG chairman Zubair Motiwala, vice chairman Jawed Bilwani, and KCCI president Muhammad Idrees have all voiced grave alarm over the government’s inaction in the face of impending problems, reported the newspaper.

They calculated that factories in Karachi lost Rs45 billion in a single day owing to gas shortages. Image(instagram)

Around 50 athletes test positive for COVID-19 before Beijing Winter Olympics


Beijing [China]: Amid China’s zero-COVID policy, around 50 foreign athletes scheduled to take part in the Beijing Winter Olympics have tested positive for the coronavirus.

NHK World tallied up announcements by national sporting associations and online posts by Olympians. As of Tuesday, 53 athletes from 12 countries and the Russian Olympic Committee were confirmed positive for COVID-19.
Nine of them have been deprived of the opportunity to compete in the Games. They include a snowboarder from Slovenia and members of Sweden’s ice hockey team.

That comes after medal-favourite Austrian ski jumper Marita Kramer was removed from the Olympic entry list after becoming infected with the virus, reported NHK World.

More than 20 athletes are in isolation either in China or at home. They include a Japanese skier who tested positive after arrival.

This comes as China is struggling with fulfilling its claim of making the country COVID free for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.

The Chinese authorities are willing and doing, everything that is required to keep the caseload to remain at zero. Despite strict protocols, some regions in China are reporting fresh cases daily.

China has implemented zero local transmissions, an official policy, at the cost of people’s freedom and violation of rights. Despite the strict monitoring, cases have been detected over the past week in the country’s largest cities.

The playbook said that athletes will be discharged from isolation if they have two consecutive negative PCR test results with a sample interval of at least 24 hours, reported NHK World.

The playbook was published ahead of the Olympics in February 2022 which has been marred with controversy. Several countries including US, UK and Canada have announced a diplomatic boycott of the event over rights abuses in the country.

The rule book also mentions a special “closed-loop” system that will be in place during athletes’ entire stay to reduce unnecessary interactions and avoid their mixing with the general public. (ANIImage -kshvid)

Pak Supreme Court Justice Bandial sworn in as new CJP


Islamabad [Pakistan], (ANI): Pakistan’s Supreme Court Justice Umar Ata Bandial sworn in as the new Chief Justice of Pakistan on Wednesday, reported Samaa News.

He will continue as the Chief Justice till his retirement on September 18, 2023.
This followed the departure of former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Gulzar Ahmed, from the position.

Identifying the ‘scandalisation’ of judges and a massive backlog of undecided cases as major challenges facing the judiciary, Chief Justice Bandial on Tuesday, spoke at length about the challenges faced by the superior judiciary during the former CJP’s term, reported DAWN.

He criticised Pakistani mainstream media and social media for resorting to attacking judges rather than criticising their judgements.

Furthermore, coining the idea of performance audits of all courts, including the apex court, to identify and remedy weaknesses, Justice Bandial called on the legal fraternity to help save the court’s time.

He urged judicial use of time by ensuring a greater reliance on written briefs, concise statements and skeleton arguments by counsel and an end to the culture of seeking adjournments at the time of the hearing, reported the newspaper. image (instagram)

Medical report submitted in Lahore court advises Nawaz Sharif against travelling to Pakistan


Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): A fresh medical report of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was submitted to the Lahore High Court on Tuesday, which advised the former premier against travelling to Pakistan over possible health risks posed to him amid the ongoing COVID-19, according to a media report.

The PML-N supremo had undergone extensive investigations since he arrived in London in 2019, and the investigations confirmed that “he has significant ischemia (a condition in which the blood flow is restricted or reduced in a part of the body) in the distribution of his left circumflex artery”, noted Dr Fayaz Shawl on Tuesday sharing details of Nawaz’s medical history and medications prescribed to him, according to Dawn.
Shawl recalled that Nawaz had had two episodes of non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction, a type of heart attack, during his stay in prison before he was allowed to travel to the UK.

“Any further solitary confinement will have a negative effect on his health, both physically and psychologically,” Dawn quoted Shawl as saying.

The doctor further stated that during his stay in London amid a pandemic crisis, Nawaz had been “managed medically and is under close surveillance”.

On Tuesday, Advocate Amjad Pervez submitted the three-page report at the Lahore High Court during a hearing of the Chaudhry Sugar Mills (CSM) case, in which members of the Sharif family have been accused of being involved in money laundering under the garb of sale and purchase of the mills’ shares.

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister has been in London since November 2019, when he was undergoing medical tests, and he was scheduled to undergo cardiac catheterisation at the time, according to Dawn. (ANI-image -instagram)

Bridge over Mahakali river to strengthen relation with India: Nepal Transport Minister


Kathmandu [Nepal]: Nepal’s Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Renu Kumari Yadav on Tuesday said the newly announced project to build a bridge over the Mahakali river would strengthen Nepal-India relations.

Following the signing of MoU for the construction of a motorable bridge over Mahakali, the Minister said, “The movement in between two nations which was stalled after this agreement has been sealed and works expedited, the relation between nations would be stronger. Transport, trade, religious and cultural beliefs, this project would further support it.”
Earlier today, India and Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the construction of a motorable Bridge over the Mahakali River, connecting Dharchula (India) with Darchula (Nepal), under Indian grant assistance.

This agreement was signed by Ambassador of India, Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Secretary, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, Government of Nepal, Rabindra Nath Shrestha.

“Today’s MoU, I would say is a milestone step because with this MoU the two countries have started the process of establishing deeper connectivity, wider connectivity between Sudurpaschim of Nepal and the state of Uttarakhand of India,” Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra said.

“It would immensely benefit not just only people across Mahakali River on both sides, on the banks of the Mahakali River, after its’ completion it would establish a new foundation for economic prosperity in those areas which are connected,” he added.

The construction of the bridge is planned to commence soon. (image -instagram)

Human rights organisations raise concerns over two TV reporters detained in Afghanistan


Kabul [Afghanistan]: The European Union, Amnesty International and UNAMA have called upon the Taliban to provide information about the case of two Ariana News reporters arrested on Monday.

The Free Speech Hub, an organization supporting open media in Afghanistan, in a statement said that the two reporters–Aslam Hejab and Waris Hasrat–were arrested by the Taliban on Monday and so far the reasons for their arrest remain unknown.
“The Free Speech Hub wants the Taliban to immediately release these two reporters and stop cracking down on freedom of expression,” the statement cited by Tolo News reported.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International said that the arrest of the two journalists was “unjustifiable” and called on the Islamic Emirate to release them.

“Such escalating attacks on media freedom are a grave threat to the right to freedom of expression. The Taliban must unconditionally and immediately release them,” Amnesty International said in a tweet.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also reacted to the arrest of the two reporters and called on the Islamic Emirate to make clear why it has arrested them and also make clear the whereabouts of women activists who went missing two weeks ago.

“Mounting concern about the restriction on media and free expression. UN urges Taliban to make public why they detained these Ariana News reporters and to respect Afghan’s rights,” UNAMA tweeted.

The EU ambassador to Afghanistan, Andreas von Brandt, also reacted to the arrest of the journalists. “Still hard to grasp why those you claim to work for justice and better governance don’t respect journalists working to improve transparency, governance and justice in Afghanistan,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, the data from 15 Afghan media outlets revealed that the number of women journalists associated with them has declined by 50 per cent and the media outlets were downsized since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last August.

Pajhwok Afghan News collected the data over the past 20 days from 15 print and electronic media outlets. The data was obtained from Aryana TV, Zwandon TV, Tamadon TV, Aryana News, Aina TV, Arzo TV, Noor TV, China Centre, Rahi Farda TV, Ghazal TV, Aryana Radio, Sar Ahang, Ghazal, Daily Anis and Paik-i-Aftab News Agency. (image-instagram)

Imran Khan’s hopes for a meeting with Putin dashed


Moscow [Russia]: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan’s hope for a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has suffered a huge setback as Moscow made it clear that there will be no bilateral meets on the sidelines of Beijing’s Winter Olympics scheduled in February.

However, Putin will hold summit-level talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during his Olympic visit.
“I would like to reiterate that there is no bilateral meetings on President Putin’s schedule except for full-scale talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to Russia’s news media TASS said.

Peskov said, “Ceremony’s organizers have to impose a number of severe restrictions both on athletes and guests, including officials, “explaining “so the Russian President’s schedule for the Beijing trip doesn’t include any bilateral meeting for obvious reasons.

However, both the Russian President and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will be in the city for the inauguration of the Winter Olympics.

Earlier, Pakistan tried to push its agenda for a bilateral summit with Russia in Beijing as Imran Khan held a telephone conversation with President Putin earlier this month.

Further, this is the second time plans for a bilateral has not come to fruition, Imran khan and Vladimir Putin were to meet at the sidelines for the SCO summit in Dushanbe in September 2021 but the meeting couldn’t not take place in person because the Russian President pulled out the summit last minute following COVID-19 case outbreak in his inner circle. (ANI)

Voices of people in Myanmar must be ‘heard and amplified’: UN


New York [US]: As Myanmar nears the first anniversary of the military coup that saw the arrest of national icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her civilian government dissolved, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday that he stands in “solidarity with the people”, and for a return to an inclusive, democratic society.

In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the multiple crises which have resulted due an intensification of violence, human rights violations, rising poverty and indifference to worsening humanitarian conditions by the military regime.
“The multiple vulnerabilities of all people across Myanmar and its regional implications require an urgent response”, the statement said.

Furthermore, humanitarian access to people in need is “critically important for the United Nations and partners to continue to deliver on the ground. Armed forces and all stakeholders must respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The people of Myanmar need to see concrete results,” the Un said in a statement.

The Burmese military overthrew the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint on February 1 last year, announcing a state of emergency, and imprisoning democratic leaders, while brutally suppressing street protests against the coup and imposition of martial law.

The statement said that last Friday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet reminded that around 12,000 remain arbitrarily detained for voicing their opposition, of which nearly 9,000 remain in custody, and at least 290 have died in detention, many likely tortured.

Armed clashes have grown in frequency and intensity throughout the country, while persecution against ethnic and religious minorities has grown, including against the Rohingya.

Bachelet said it was time for an “urgent, renewed effort” to restore human rights and democracy, and ensure that perpetrators of “systemic human rights violations and abuses are held to account.”

According to the UN statement, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer, has been actively engaging all stakeholders in support of a Myanmar-led process.

“She will continue to mobilize immediate action, including through strengthened cooperation between the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to address the desperate needs of the people of Myanmar”, said the UN chief’s statement.

“This is crucial for creating an enabling environment for inclusive dialogue”, added Guterres.

“Any solution needs to derive from engaging directly with and listening carefully to all those affected by the ongoing crisis. Their voices must be heard and amplified.” (ANI-Image -Instagram)

Bilawal Bhutto firm on long march despite government tactics


Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reaffirmed his faith in the scheduled long march next month despite Imran Khan’s government’s tactics to derail it.

Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the government is specifically targeting the PPP because of the long march but it will be held despite government tactics and propaganda, according to News International.
“The propaganda against the PPP had started from various quarters before the long march,” he said.

“The government’s tactics are bound to fail and he could visualise the difficulties the government is already facing due to this long march,” he added.

Earlier, Bilawal Bhutto telephoned Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) president and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif.

Further, PMLN President and Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif thanked Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif tested positive for coronavirus a few days back.

Meanwhile, Bilawal Bhutto, who is in Lahore, held a meeting with former Prime Ministers Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and handed them over important tasks regarding the PPP’s long march scheduled to be started from Karachi on February 27, as reported by Dawn.

Also, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was briefed by former Prime Ministers and members of the long march organising committee on the preparations, according to the Dawn.

On the other hand, Pakistan opposition under Bilawal Bhutto decided to challenge the State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2022 after the Pakistan Senate approved it with a one-vote majority.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that the Imran government is following foreign agenda.

“Sometimes he talks to bring the system of China, other times desires to introduce the system followed in Iran,” he said.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman claimed that March 23 would be marked a historic day for Pakistan when the whole country would be moving towards Islamabad, according to the Dawn. (Image -instagram)

Pakistan: Farmers to stage protest on Feb 14 in Multan


Lahore [Pakistan]: Farmers have decided to protest against the Pakistan government in Multan city of Punjab province on February 14, over its recent move of revoking GST exemption from agriculture.

Speaking from Lahore, Khalid Mehmood Khokhar, president of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad on Saturday said that after so many useless meetings with the representatives of federal and provincial governments PKI is forced to stage a protest on February 14 in Multan, followed by all districts and provincial and federal capitals, The News Internationa reported.
The PKI president also said that animals, poultry, fish and farmers’ kids would be attending the protest along with farmers next month.

The recent move of the government revoking GST exemption from agriculture inputs like maize hybrid imported seed, rice hybrid seed, vegetable seed, fodder seed, all local seeds, fish meal, animal feed, soyabean, raw cotton, benola, cotton seed oil, oil cakes, agriculture machinery, fodder, fish meal, animal feed and poultry feed machinery will not only trouble farmers but also animals.

He said neither farmers nor their animals get loans from the IMF, then why their livings are being made difficult on the basis of IMF conditions. That’s why it is a unique protest where farmers and their animals will participate in the protest, according to The News International. (ANI)

Turkey, Qatar, Taliban agree on “several key issues” to manage, operate Kabul Airport


Kabul [Afghanistan]: A trilateral meeting between Turkey, Qatar, and the Taliban officials agreed on “several key issues” on how to manage and operate Kabul Airport.

The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation said that the Taliban has reached an agreement with Qatari and Turkish joint ventures on the details of aviation security, ground services and airspace of the five airports of the country at a meeting held in Doha on Thursday, reported Tolo News.
“The details have been discussed, a series of general decisions have been taken, but the talks are still ongoing and we are moving in a positive direction,” said Imamuddin Ahmadi, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.

Meanwhile, the Qatari Foreign Ministry said that the three-party delegation agreed on “several key issues” on how to manage and operate Kabul Airport. However, the Qatari Foreign Ministry did not provide further details, reported Tolo News.

The former chairman of the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) called on the Taliban to prepare the terms of the agreement in such a way as to provide a fair and equal basis for Qatari and Turkish companies to operate with domestic companies.

“If the contract is to be regulated from the beginning for the operating contract, the liability of the airlines should become a supervisory role over a period of two to three years,” said Mohammad Qasem Wafayeezada, former chairman of the ACAA, reported Tolo News.

Since the fall of the previous government, regular commercial flights have been suspended in the country.

Now with the handover of the Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Mazar, and Khost airports to foreign companies, optimism about the resumption of these flights has increased, reported Tolo News.

“Aviation services at Kabul Airport by international companies will have a positive impact on the resumption of flights,” said Ghulam Masum Masumi, air traffic expert. (ANI)

Bilawal Bhutto to attend Sargodha rally on Jan 30; March against PM Imran Khan


Islamabad [Pakistan](ANI): The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday arrived in Lahore on a three-day visit during which he would travel to Sargodha to attend a rally at Sial Sharif, local media reported.

Apart from this, he would hold meetings at his residence to chalk out a plan of action for the Islamabad bound long march against Imran Khan government that is scheduled to commence from Karachi on February 27, The Express Tribune reported.
Other important activities that the PPP chairman will indulge in whilst in Lahore include deliberating upon the road map, stopover points and party campsites for the long march with the provincial leadership, the Pakistani media reported.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a PPP office-bearer said Bilawal will attend a rally on January 30. The PPP office-bearer went on to say that several proposals were under consideration for the long march.

“There was one proposal of commencing the long march on Feb 27 and reach Islamabad by March 10-12,” he said. “There were other proposals, favoring further prolonging the march and that of condensing it to a mere few days.”

Earlier this month, Pakistan opposition announced a long march against Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government from Karachi on February 27 over the rise in inflation. (Image -InstagramBilawal)

UN expresses concern over human rights violations in Afghanistan


Kabul [Afghanistan]: The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed deep concern over the reports of human rights violations in the country.

During a meeting with Taliban officials at the Ministry of Interior Affairs- Afghanistan, the UNAMA Human Rights said that there is a need for investigations, transparency and accountability of such cases in Afghanistan.
“UNAMA Human Rights met with Taliban officials at @moiafghanistan today. Discussed alleged cases of human rights violations and concerns re ex-ANSF/Govt members, civsoc, media, judiciary, religious clerics and women activists. Need for investigations, transparency & accountability,” the “UNAMA said in a Tweet on Thursday.

Several media persons, government members, religious clerics and women activists have been killed in Afghanistan.

At least 30 journalists and media workers have been killed, manhandled, and injured in Afghanistan from the start of 2021 till July 2021, while many of them were also threatened by government officials, according to a report by an Afghanistan non profit Nai.

Last year in December, a religious scholar was killed in Afghanistan’s western Farah province.

In November, four women activists in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif in the northern Balkh province were killed.

Various violent incidents against women have emerged since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan after the fall of the government in August.

Despite repeated calls from all around the world, the Taliban have failed to deliver its promises on women’s safety and their assurance of an inclusive government. (ANI)

Rastriya Ekata Abhiyan holds demonstration against China in Biratnagar, Nepal


Biratnagar [Nepal] (ANI): Rastriya Ekata Abhiyan held a demonstration against China in Biratnagar on Thursday.

The demonstration was staged against excessive Chinese interference in Nepal’s internal affairs, encroachment of Nepali territory at various places along the northern border, according to Khabarhub.
Earlier, demonstrators marched from Mahendra Chowk to Bhatta Chowk in Biratnagar amid anti-China slogans against Chinese expansion and undue interference in the top political circle of the country.

The protestors also burned the picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to Khabarhub.

Binay Yadav, coordinator of Rastriya Ekata Abhiyan, said that the activists were compelled to take to the streets as the Chinese intelligence agency Ministry of State Security (MSS) was intensifying its influence in the country.

Further, he decried China’s unofficial blockade at border points, the northern neighbour not allowing Nepali medical students, whose future hangs in the balance, to return, as reported by Khabarhub. (ANI-instagram)

Pakistan Interior Minister warns opposition leaders of political defeat, humiliation over protests on Pakistan Day


Islamabad [Pakistan](ANI): Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has warned opposition leaders of political defeat and humiliation over their planned protest in March on the occasion of Pakistan Day, reported local media.

The Opposition had not been able to make any headway in its bid to oust the government in the last three-and-a-half years, and it could not do anything in the future as well, Geo News quoted Rashid as saying.
“The only thing they have done is giving irresponsible statements against Imran Khan. The public did not come out on the streets in the last 3.5 years, and they will not come out now,” Rashid said.

The Opposition has announced its march to Islamabad on March 23.

“What is your agenda? Why are you marching towards Islamabad?” Rashid asked the opposition. However, the Minister reiterated that opposition leaders would face no resistance from the government.

On Tuesday, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had decided to continue with the long march against rising inflation on Pakistan Day (March 23).

The Opposition has already faced defeat in Parliament, said Rashid, adding, those leaders will also face “political defeat on the roads”.

Rashid also warned the Opposition that the Prime Minister would indeed be “very dangerous” if he were to take to the streets against it. “I say this with authority: Imran Khan has street power”, according to Geo News. (Image – Instagram)

Afghanistan’s health system ‘seriously under threat’: WHO


Kabul [Afghanistan], (ANI): The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said fundamental and life-saving primary health care services in Afghanistan are under severe threat due to a lack of external funding since the change of regime in August 2021.

“Today, the population’s health is seriously under threat. All the progress in health outcomes may be lost. WHO is urgently calling for international donors to step up and find an alternative funding mechanism for this crucial primary health care initiative.,” the WHO said in a report.
The global health organisation said primary health care is the foundation of the national health system, providing health services to millions of people across the country.

The Sehatmandi programme is the backbone of Afghanistan’s health system. It provides affordable health care for millions of people through 2,331 health facilities in 34 provinces, covering 64% of all public health facilities.

As the health system continues to collapse in Afghanistan, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health said it is working to attract more global aid to Afghanistan in the health sector.

“If aid that is provided in the health sector is not distributed in coordination with the Ministry of Public Health, the crisis in the health sector may escalate and people may face many problems,” said Javid Hazhir, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health.

This report by WHO comes as Paktia residents are complaining over the lack of health services in the province, and they ask the UN to provide them with health services, TOLONews reported.

“We urge the United Nations to provide medical assistance and equipment to the country’s hospitals,” said Gul Karim, a resident of Paktia. (Image – KabulNews Instagram)

10 Pakistanis held in Paris for money-laundering, human trafficking, using fake documents


Islamabad/Paris [France]: Ten Pakistani nationals have been arrested from the suburbs of Paris, on the suspicion of money laundering, human trafficking and fake documents, according to sources.

As per media reports, police suspect two brothers among the 10 arrested, to be controlling this network. Police got a whiff of the network in June 2020 after being informed of suspicious packages carrying fake European documents arriving in France, from Pakistan via Turkey and Greece.
According to sources, the fake documents included official documents of countries in the Schengen area and in particular for France, including passports, identity cards and residence permits.

Following this lead, investigators from the Central Office for the Suppression of Irregular Immigration and the Employment of Undocumented Foreigners and OCRGDF (Central Office for the Suppression of Serious Financial Crime) began investigations into the presence of illegal workers operating in the Paris region, largely in the construction sector.

During the probe, the French authorities also unearthed 20 legal companies involved in the construction business that were linked to a large network of “taxi” companies, which were used to redirect the funds to nearly 200 bank accounts opened with false papers.

This network transferred money to the various accounts using fake invoices or documents and then got the money out of the legal circuit by withdrawing large amounts from these bank accounts through ATMs.

Part of the money withdrawn was used to pay illegal Pakistanis working in these construction sites and the remaining diverted to Pakistan.

Searches at the houses and offices of these 10 individuals from Val-d’Oise and Seine-Saint-Denis areas in Paris led to the recovery of 157 fake identity documents, Euros 134,000 in cash, four vehicles including a Maserati, documents related to 180 bank accounts and the false papers used to open these accounts. As per the police, between 2019 and 2021, at least Euro 28 million were transferred to the bank accounts of different people and another Euro 13 million were transferred to the accounts in the names of front companies, sources said.

The case has unearthed the close link between illegal immigration from Pakistan and money laundering. (ANI)

Kabul: 42 killed, 76 injured in Afghanistan due to heavy snowfall


Kabul [Afghanistan]: At least 42 people have been killed and 76 wounded following heavy snowfall in Afghanistan, local media reported on Monday.

The State Ministry in Disaster Management affairs of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said heavy snowfall in 15 provinces of Afghanistan killed 42 people while 76 were injured in the time span, Khaama Press reported.
State Ministry further stated over 2,000 houses were destroyed across Afghanistan in the past 20 days.

According to the officials in the Ministry of Disaster Management, the emergency aid to affected people have been delivered and they are working hard to prevent further calamities.

Meanwhile, Deputy of the Ministry Enayatullah Shuja said that hundreds of people were stranded on several highways due to heavy snowfall who have been rescued and that the rescue operation is still going on, Khaama Press reported.

Shuja further said that they are working with different aid agencies to deliver emergency assistance to those affected.

Earlier, two earthquakes in the western Badghis province also killed 28 people and destroyed up to 1,000 houses last week.

Freezing winter and heavy snowfall have contributed to the humanitarian crisis of Afghanistan due to vas unemployment, starvation, and drought. (ANI/Image)

Will Omicron derail recovery of airlines in South and Southeast Asia?


Singapore: In reporting its latest operating data, Singapore Airlines (SIA), co-owner of Gurgaon-based Vistara airlines, revealed that it carried 600,000 passengers in December, nearly doubled the number of passengers it carried a month ago. This is ten times higher compared with the 64,600 it carried in December 2020, and an indication that the battered airlines industry in the region is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The higher number is also due in part to the year-end holiday travel season in Singapore as well as the success of the VTL (vaccinated travel lane) travel scheme the city-state introduced.
As of November 26 last year, a total of 24 countries including India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are covered under the Singapore VTL programme. Visitors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were due to be added as VTL countries from December 6, but this arrangement was halted due to the emergence of the heavily mutated and more transmissible Omicron COVID variant. Since then, no other country has been added.

Also due to the Omicron variant, the Singapore authorities announced on December 22 that it will pause the sale of VTL air tickets till January 20 and half the quota for visitor arrivals under the VTL scheme. It had earlier set a daily limit of 10,000 travellers from VTL countries who can enter Singapore.

SIA, in its statement accompanying the release of its December 2021 operating statistics acknowledged this quota reduction. The carrier said that it “will continue to be nimble and manage its network in accordance with the prevailing market conditions and regulations.” It also added that it expects passenger capacity for January and February of 2022 to be around 47 percent and 45 percent of pre-COVID levels respectively.

This of course assumes that its customers do not cancel or change their plans due to travel inconveniences as some countries impose stricter border controls, including more testing and quarantines. If SIA does manage to achieve the expected passenger numbers for this month and next, the airline will continue to improve its performance.

At the end of December 2021, SIA’s passenger network covered 85 destinations including Singapore, up by 13 compared to the end of the previous month.

Despite still losing money, albeit at a slower rate compared to during the height of pandemic enforced border closures, SIA is certainly in a better financial position than its regional peers.

Backed by Singapore government investment firm Temasek, it managed to raise over USD16 billion since the pandemic started and just last week sold another USD600 million of bonds at a very attractive yield of 3.493 percent, nearly a percentage point lower than the average yield at issuance for global airline notes sold in 2021, according to Bloomberg data.

Many regional carriers which lack such government support are only just emerging from the bankruptcy court or still in the midst of such proceedings.

On the last day of 2021, Philippine Airlines has said it has emerged from bankruptcy after a U.S. court approved its plan to slash up to USD2 billion in debt. It also obtained USD505 million of additional capital from its main shareholder, billionaire Lucio Tan via his investment holding companies.

Indonesia’s Garuda is still in the middle of a court-enforced restructuring. Just last week, an Indonesian court extended the period for the Garuda’s debt restructuring by 60 days to allow the airline more time to verify all the claims. It is asking creditors to take a USD6.1 billion haircut to reduce debts to USD 3.7 billion under a court-led process.

Thai Airways is at the moment run by bankruptcy administrators since filing for protection in May 2020, after spectacularly defaulting on over USD3 billion worth of debt. The airline was indebted to the tune of USD9.8 billion at the peak of the COVID pandemic. It is attempting to reduce its day-to-day operating costs and expenses, downsize its business, boost its income, and seek new funding sources.

Air India, after bleeding USD3 million a day of taxpayer’s money for the better part of the last decade, was finally off-loaded to Tata Sons with the handover expected to be concluded at the end of January. The steel-to-salt conglomerate paid about USD 2.4 billion to take over the government-owned airline which includes taking over USD2 billion of debt.

AirAsiawhich has managed to stay afloat by cost cutting, raising funds, shedding assets and rearranging payments to its creditors, has also been looking at various ways to diversify its revenue stream. They now have a “super-app” and is into ride-hailing, food delivery, online grocery shopping and digital payments. It has also beefed up its logistics capabilities and in the market to acquire more freighter aircrafts. It has sold down its stake in AirAsia India to raise capital and now owns about 16 percent of the airline down from its pre-pandemic holding of 49 percent.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes recently told CNBC that he believes that the recovery in air travel has begun in earnest despite Omicron.

“The good thing is, this time last year, we had no planes flying. Now, we’ve got a large chunk of our fleet flying domestic Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia,” he said, adding that demand has been “very, very robust.”

In a press release published on January 12, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported that total demand for air travel in November 2021 measured in revenue passenger-kilometres for November 2021 improved compared with the prior month. It was down 47 percent compared with November 2019, up 1.9 percentage points from October 2021’s figure of a 48.9 percent contraction when compared with October 2019.

Although the association noted that air traffic continued to recover in November, this was before the Omicron wave which sent some governments re-imposing some border restriction only after lifting them a couple of months earlier.

Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General feels that governments have over-reacted to the emergence of the Omicron variant by resorting to “tried-and-failed methods of border closures, excessive testing of travellers and quarantine to slow the spread.”

“Not surprisingly, international ticket sales made in December and early January fell sharply compared to 2019, suggesting a more difficult first quarter than had been expected,” Walsh said. “There is little to no correlation between the introduction of travel restrictions and preventing transmission of the virus across borders. And these measures place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. If experience is the best teacher, let us hope that governments pay more attention as we begin the New Year.” (Image source – Singapore Tourism)

Imran Khan admits Pak faces massive inflation, attempts to link it as global phenomenon

Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has admitted that the people in the country are facing massive inflation as prices of commodities and fuel have surged in the nation and stated that the inflation issue keeps him awake at night, a media report said.
Answering a question about skyrocketing inflation during a general public live on-air program on Saturday, Imran Khan said that it was the only problem that “kept [him] awake at night”, reported Dawn. But Imran Khan also said that the current inflation was a “global phenomenon”.
The Prime Minister also noted that when the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led government came into power, they had to deal with a massive account deficit which led to a surge in the price of imports.
Imran Khan also noted that multiple countries are currently facing a supply shortage issue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stating that the US has spent USD 6,000 billion for the welfare of the people during the pandemic, Imran said that Pakistan spent USD 8bn. “We must compare the situation of both countries,” he added.
The Pakistan Prime Minister also noted that currently, the UK and some European countries face record inflation.
With regard to inflation, Imran Khan also asked the media to keep a “balanced approach” while discussing inflation and to inform citizens of the situation across the world.
Admitting that inflation has affected Pakistanis a lot, Imran said that the salaried class was the most affected due to inflation. (Image source: Instagram)

COVID-19 situation worsens in Pakistan as it reports over 7,500 new cases


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan reported 7,586 fresh cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours as the fifth wave of COVID-19 pandemic continues to get worse in the country, the country’s National Command and Operation Centre’s said on Sunday.

According to Geo tv, Pakistan registered its highest number of daily coronavirus cases — 7,678 — on Friday since the pandemic started in 2020, as per NCOC statistics.
A total of 58,334 tests were conducted in the country during the last 24 hours, of which 7,586 came back positive, pushing the nationwide tally of the virus cases to 1,367,605. The country’s positivity rate now stands at a record high of 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, 20 more patients succumbed to the virus during the same period, taking the death toll to 29,097.

In addition to this, the country’s active coronavirus cases surged to 70,263, making it the highest in over four months. Pakistan last reported 65,725 active cases on September 16, 2021, according to Geo tv.

Pakistan is currently facing its fifth deadly wave of coronavirus, and cases of Omicron variant are rising in the country.

Amid this outbreak, 15 judges along with five dozen staff members working in the lower courts have been infected, according to media reports. (ANI-Image )

Taliban should respect human rights for the sake of international recognition, says UN chief

New York [US] (ANI): The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday (local time) said that the Taliban should respect human rights for the sake of recognition and international support.
The UN chief made the statement while laying out his priorities for 2022 at the General Assembly in New York, reported Tolo News. Guterres touching upon the issue of Afghanistan and human rights in the country said that respect for the rights of women and girls and human rights, in general, is required for the Islamic Emirate to gain recognition and also obtain international support.
“It is absolutely essential for them in the context of their objective of recognition, but also in the context of their objective of getting international support for their own people, it is absolutely essential to have full respect for the rights of women and girls and to have a positive approach to human rights in general,” he said.
Women’s rights to work and girls’ right to education have been two key issues the international community has set as part of the conditions for recognition. Following the collapse of the former government, secondary girls’ schools have remained closed in most parts of the country.
The US special envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West has said that the international community will pay the salaries of Afghan teachers if the Islamic Emirate reopens all girls’ schools in the coming school year, reported Tolo News.
The UN chief also talked about the world facing a five-alarm global fire that requires the full mobilization and support of all countries, reported Tolo News.
“I want to begin the year by raising five alarms – on COVID-19, global finance, climate action, lawlessness in cyberspace, and peace and security,” he said. “Now is not the time to simply list and lament challenges, now is the time to act,” he added. (Image source: Instagram)

Nepal PM Deuba assures three-tier elections within a year

Kathmandu [Nepal] (ANI): Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has assured to hold three-tier elections within a year asking the electoral body of the Himalayan nation to start preparing for it.
Addressing the nation on completion of six months in power after being elected for the fifth term, Deuba claimed that his leadership is committed to hold the elections on time and asked the Election Commission to prepare for it accordingly. Referring to obstruction in house by the opposition and stalled amendment bills in the lower house Prime Minister Deuba also promised to resolve all the issues beforehand.
“Having dialogue and talks with all the political parties present in parliament, the deadlock of the lower house would be brought to an end and all the topics under discussion will be concluded accordingly. The government owns the responsibility to hold three-tier elections, I request all concerned authorities to carry on the preparatory works for the polls,” Deuba said in a televised address.
Though Prime Minister Deuba reiterated to hold the elections on time he didn’t mention when it would be held or of which area would be held first.
“Responsibility of holding the three-tier election within one year, the government has been carrying out preparatory works for it,” the Prime Minister reiterated.
The ruling coalition has been debating over holding elections of local or federal levels first which increases speculation about the government’s motive. (Image source: Instagram)

Pak’s blatant lies about JeM, LeT terror groups deserve FATF blacklisting


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan rightly deserves blacklisting by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as the country, in its plenary session in October, blatantly misrepresented information of Jaish-e-Mohammad leader, Maulana Masood Azhar and claimed that he is untraceable.

This assertion was quickly debunked, as Azhar’s writings advocating for jihad appeared in the jihadi media.
According to reports, JeM leaders are running indoctrination and training camps as well as organising and attending conferences across Punjab and other provinces in search of recruits and cash.

On September 19 last, Azhar wrote an article criticising the media for circulating fake news instead of celebrating the Islamic victory in Afghanistan. On December 29, he called for jihad in the name of Allah, reported Islam Khabar.

In the last few months, there has been clear evidence of the terrorist group holding different meetings in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

On September 10, 2021, the JeM held a “Salam Shuhada-e-Islam Conference” at Markaz Jamia Masjid Hanifa Abbasspur, where Masood Ilyas Kashmiri shouted slogans like “India Teri Maut Ayee, Jaish Ayee, Jaish Ayee”.

It threatened that its cadres had crossed the Line of Control and would soon carry out suicide attacks in Kashmir and Delhi. At the mosque, posters of fallen terrorists were widely exhibited.

The terrorist group is also infamous for carrying out jihadist activities in madrasas of Karachi and Bahawalpur in Pakistan.

Terrorists claimed responsibility for the December 2021 terrorist attack on Srinagar police and sought funds for future operations at a big public assembly in PoK earlier this month, reported Islam Khabar.

The conference was held in Jaloth, near Rawalakote, and was addressed by PoK’s regional chief, Muhammad Ilyas.

The same is also confirmed by a US report which emphasizes that terror groups, including JeM and LeT, are targeting India. (ANI)

Positivity rate soars near 45 pc as Nepal continues to register record number of COVID cases

Kathmandu [Nepal] (ANI): Nepal on Thursday registered another record number of 12,338 new cases of COVID-19 as the positivity rate in the Himalayan Nation soared to about 45 per cent.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population, new cases has been confirmed after 21,007 samples underwent RT-PCR and 6,490 samples underwent antigen tests in the last 24 hours. Earlier on Wednesday alone, Nepal had recorded 11,353 new cases of infection. As per the ministry, the Himalayan Nation buffered between India and China now has a positivity rate of 44.87 per cent while the recovery rate stands at 92.2 per cent. For the third day in a row, the COVID cases in Nepal have set a record-high number of cases and are expected to reach about 20,000 cases on a daily basis as it reaches the peak.
On Thursday, Kathmandu Valley registered more than half of the confirmed cases out of which Kathmandu registered 5,001 cases, Bhaktapur recorded 850 and Lalitpur recorded 1,130 cases.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population, there were four coronavirus-related deaths reported in the past 24 hours. With this, the COVID-19 death toll in the country is 11,632 to date.
Currently, there are 57,328 active cases in the country. In the past 24-hour period, 649 infected patients recovered. (Image source: Instagram)

‘Situation in Afghanistan critical as frozen assets may lead to 1.5 million unemployed’


Kabul [Afghanistan]: Afghan industrialists have urged the international community to unfreeze Afghan funds as if immediate financial help is not provided to the country then it will lead to the closure of factories making 1.5 million people unemployed in the troubled country, local media reported on Thursday.

Afghanistan is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and needs immediate financial help who are facing acute hunger combined with a severe drought and the coronavirus pandemic.
Head of the Chamber of Mines and Industries of Afghanistan Sherbaz Kaminzada said that factories in the country which are on the brink of collapse will completely close if the assets of Afghanistan do not get unfrozen, Khaama Press reported.

Kaminzada said that Afghanistan had an unreal and fragile economy during the past twenty years and asked the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and the International Community to cooperate with Afghan industrialists for the growth of the economy, Khaama Press reported.

Millions of Afghans are currently jobless, and their bank accounts are frozen.

He warned that lack of cash and the restrictions on the banking system that has made difficult procurement of raw material will leave 1.5 million people out of jobs, over 500,000 of them women.

Kaminzada expressed the remarks in his meeting with the UN Secretary-General’s special representative to Afghanistan Deborah Lyons on the sideline of the Economic Conference in Kabul on Wednesday.

“Hundreds of factories in Afghanistan do not have the raw material that has directly affected the workers, investors, and common people,” Kaminzada said.

Meanwhile, the special representative assured Afghan industrialists of raising their voice and will return from the UN headquarter with positive outcomes.

Following the Taliban takeover in mid-August, the US froze nearly 10 billion dollars in Afghanistan’s assets and slapped sanctions on the Islamic Emirate.

In the meantime, the stoppage of foreign aid to Afghanistan has crippled the already fragile economic system of Afghanistan and has adversely affected the lives of millions of people. (image- )

With 11,352 new COVID-19 cases, Nepal records highest single-day spike since pandemic began


Kathmandu [Nepal](ANI): With 11,352 cases being reported in the last 24 hours, Nepal recorded the highest COVID-19 single-day spike since the pandemic began, according to official data.

According to the daily update provided by the Ministry of Health and Population a total of 18,078 samples were tested for contagion using the Real-Time- Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) method.
Out of tested, using RT-PCR 9,502 samples resulted positive for virus while 1,850 samples confirmed infection after 5,331 samples using antigen method.

With four coronavirus-related death reported in the past 24 hours, the cumulative death toll in the country reached 11,628. Along with this, 613 people have recovered from the virus while the number of active cases in the Himalayan nation stands at 47,929 in the nation.

Nepal on Tuesday reported 8,730 new PCR confirmed coronavirus cases.

As per the ministry, the number of cases in Nepal has increased by almost 30 per cent in the last one week alone, it was near to doubling the cases in a week.

“In past one week, a total of 62,753 RT PCR tests were conducted which this week has been increased by 54 per cent and increased to 96000,” Dr Krishna Paudel, Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division said in Wednesday’s daily briefing.

“Out of the total tests conducted, 39,342 new cases has been confirmed. Along with this, the infection rate also has increased to 40.6 per cent. The number of infected ones has increased by 27.3 per cent in comparison to earlier week,” Dr Paudel added.

“The number has been increased by 12.5 per cent taking the number of total tests to 33,400.”

On Wednesday, COVID-19 hotspot Kathmandu Valley recorded 6343 new cases out of which 578 cases in Bhaktapur, 1019 in Lalitpur and 4666 in Kathmandu. (Image -NepalTourismInstagram)

Jamaat-i-Islami announces country-wide protests against Imran Khan govt to withdraw mini-budget

Lahore [Pakistan] (ANI): Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) party on Tuesday announced launching a nation-wide protest movement to press the government for taking back the mini-budget which the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government recently bulldozed through the National Assembly, a media report said.
“The JI will hold 100 sit-ins in all the major cities before staging the final sit-in in Islamabad,” Dawn quoted the JI chief Siraj ul Haq announcing at a press conference here at Mansoora on Tuesday. Siraj ul Haq said that the schedule of the movement will be announced soon and also called for the removal of the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.
The government should reduce the prices of basic food by 50 per cent, said the JI leader amid the rising inflation in the country.
Haq also warned that if the Imran Khan government does not reduce prices, the PTI government should get ready to face the people’s wrath in Islamabad.
The upcoming sit-in by JI will be the last nail in the PTI’s coffin, said Haq, stressing that the other parties in Pakistan as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) are also equally responsible for the “destruction” of the country’s economy and institution.
The JI leader slated the government for a 100 per cent to 300 percent hike in the food prices, the rupee depreciation and apprehended that the country’s nuclear programme could be rolled backed due to the prevailing economic crisis, according to Dawn.
Stressing that the PTI had virtually handed over the country’s control to the IMF, Haq said that the JI could not sit silent in the prevailing situation and would fight till the people got relief. (Image source: Instagram)

Covid Cases: Malaysia reports 3,245 new COVID-19 infections, 9 new deaths


Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia], (ANI/Xinhua): Malaysia recorded 3,245 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,813,934, according to its health ministry.

The new infections included 274 imported cases and 2,971 local transmissions, showed data released on the health ministry’s website.
An additional nine deaths from the pandemic were recorded, bringing the total death toll to 31,818.

The health ministry also reported 3,093 new recoveries from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 2,741,355.

Currently, 40,761 active cases have been reported in Malaysia, with 183 of them held in intensive care units, and 84 of them in need of assisted breathing.

The country administered 129,597 vaccine doses on Tuesday. A total of 79.7 per cent of the population have received at least one dose, 78.6 percent are fully vaccinated and 29.8 per cent have received a booster dose. (Image – BB)

Taliban discuss land survey for cross-border railway with Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan

Kabul [Afghanistan] (ANI): Taliban government has discussed a land survey for a railway project among Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan at a cabinet meeting, Xinhua News Agency reported citing Afghan media on Tuesday.
Afghanistan’s acting Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund chaired the cabinet meeting, the news agency said. It added that the cabinet also directed the Economic Commission to evaluate the terms and conditions put forward by foreign companies that are willing to invest in the field of compressed natural gas.
Pakistan National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf has visited Kabul amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country.
This would be the second high-level visit from Pakistan since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August last year, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
This visit comes as several contentious issues have emerged between Afghanistan and Pakistan clashed including the border fencing issue which led to clashes at the Durand Line. (Image source: Unsplash)

At least 26 killed as earthquake hits western Afghanistan


Kabul [Afghanistan]: At least 26 people have been killed after an earthquake struck western Afghanistan, media reports said.

Hundreds of homes were damaged in the western Badghis province, bordering Turkmenistan, after the 5.3-magnitude earthquake on Monday, Al Jazeera reported.
A spokesperson for the province told news agencies the victims died when roofs of their houses collapsed in the Qadis district of the province.

“Five women and four children are among the 26 people killed in the earthquake,” the spokesperson said.

Media reports said that the second quake of magnitude 4.9 hit the region two hours after the first.

A senior official of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs confirmed the death toll and added that more than 700 houses had been damaged, Al Jazeera reported.

The earthquake also inflicted damage on the residents of Muqr district in the province but details were still unavailable, he said. (Image -ANI)

Taiwan seeks to join US’ Indo-Pacific economic framework

Taipei [Taiwan] (ANI): Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration is seeking to join an Indo-Pacific economic framework being planned by the United States, local news reported quoting a senior official on Monday.
“The government is paying close attention to the regional economic pact being touted by US President Joe Biden, although too few details have emerged from Washington for Taipei to make specific plans,” the official said, Taipei Times reported. America is expected to launch the Indo-Pacific economic framework next month after negotiations with Australia, India, and Japan, the official said.
Washington has shown deep concern over semiconductor supply-chain issues, while Taiwan is a leading chipmaker and has an interest in enhancing ties between the two countries, the official said, according to Taipei Times.
The US plans for a comprehensive economic framework for the Indo-Pacific is only one component in a larger regional strategy being considered in Washington, which Taiwan must observe closely, the official said.
Speaking at an event marking the 70th anniversary of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan in December last year, Tsai said that Taiwan’s technological innovation and agile economy show that the country should play a role in the Indo-Pacific economic framework, Taipei Times reported further. (Image source: Instagram)

Political change visible in Pakistan against fragile Imran Khan government

Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): Political change is visible in Pakistan with the sudden outburst by Defence Minister Pervez Khattak against federal Minister Hammad Azhar and Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI ) Parliamentary party meeting.
Pervez Khattak could pose a potential threat to the Leader of the House and Prime Minister Imran Khan in the near future as he enjoys the support of 80 lawmakers in the lower house for a change within the house, according to the Nation. Further, Pervez Khattak denied any differences; a day after his mysterious absence from the national security policy launch has given strength to reports of serious cracks within the ruling party.
If both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party are unable to forge any unity for moving no trust motion then Pervez Khattak would move forward and take away his loyal MPs with him by making a forward bloc which would pose the biggest challenge to the survival of Imran Khan Khan in the parliament, according to the Nation.
Imran Khan is gradually losing the support of his allies in the parliament as well. In the parliamentary party meeting, allies also complained about the mini-budget and wanted the Prime Minister to review it.
Winds of changes are not restricted to Islamabad alone and it’s reaching Karachi and Peshawar within no time. More voices such as Noor Alam Khan would appear in both houses of the Parliament, which are clear indicators that Member of Parliaments wants the change of the leader of the house of their party, according to the Nation. (Image source: Unsplash)

Pakistan government begins probe into misuse of petroleum imports from China

Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): Probe into misuse of petroleum imports from China began in Pakistan as the federal government on Friday ordered all oil marketing companies (OMCs) to provide evidence-based data on the import of petrol from China amid reports of the misuse of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA).
Under the CPFTA renegotiated in 2019, the Pakistan government had issued statutory regulatory orders on December 31, 2019, that abolished tariff on import of petrol. As such, there was no customs duty on the import of petrol from China with effect from Jan 1, 2020. Normal petroleum imports from all other sources, mostly the Middle East, attract 10 per cent customs duty while similar deemed duty is applicable on production from local refineries, according to Dawn. Further, results in a price saving of about 10 per cent on petrol imports from China. However, this price differential is retained by the OMCs as windfall profit instead of its benefit to the exchequer or the consumers. Depending on the international petrol price published in Platt’s Oilgram, the gap normally works out between Rs9-12 per litre.
Earlier, the key purpose of the free trade agreement signed on April 28, 2019, was the promotion of fair trade competition.
On the other hand, China itself is a net importer of petroleum products including petrol and transportation cost to Pakistan is relatively higher than that of the Middle East. Yet this provides a substantial cushion to the OMCs.
Earlier, last month, the local refineries had told the government that domestic production of petrol and high-speed diesel (HSD) could potentially go up by 60 per cent and 48 per cent , respectively, at a significant foreign exchange saving provided the local refineries were operated at optimum capacity.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s oil import bill, particularly of refined petroleum products, has been the largest chunk of about 83pc increase in imports in the first five months of the current fiscal year, causing unrest among the government ranks as money and share markets plummeted last month, according to Dawn.
Further, the local refineries had been agitating their operational challenges because of lower furnace oil off-take by power producers despite their extremely low storages than contractually required and large import quantities of both petrol and diesel by OMCs. (Image source: Instagram)

Taliban welcomes UN chief’s call to lift ban on fund

Kabul [Afghanistan] (ANI): Taliban on Friday welcomed remarks of the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling on the international comunity to lift a ban on Afghan assets.
over the international community to quickly provide assistance to the central bank of Afghanistan and do more to inject liquidity in the country’s economy to avoid a collapse in 2022. “We appreciate the UN Secretary General’s call for the release of Afghan capital from the United States,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a Tweet.
On Thursday, the UN Chief called on the international community to quickly provide assistance to the central bank of Afghanistan and do more to inject liquidity in the country’s economy to avoid a collapse in 2022.
“The function of Afghanistan’s central bank must be preserved and assisted, and a path identified for conditional release of Afghan foreign currency reserves,” Sputnik quoted Guterres statement.
“We must do even more to rapidly inject liquidity into the economy and avoid a meltdown that would lead to poverty, hunger and destitution for millions,” Guterres added.
Following the Taliban takeover in mid-August, the US froze nearly 10 billion dollars in Afghanistan’s assets and slapped sanctions on the Islamic Emirate.
In the meantime, the stoppage of foreign aids to Afghanistan has crippled the already fragile economic system of Afghanistan and has adversely affected the lives of millions of people. (Image source: Unsplash)

Pakistan reports over 3,000 COVID cases in 24 hours, positivity rate up by 9 times in one month

Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): The number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has hit a new record with 3,000 cases reported in the last 24 hours after a gap of over four months, with the country’s positivity rate showing an extraordinary nine-fold increase in just one month.
Earlier, 3,152 cases were reported on September 11, 2021, in Pakistan. A total of 3,019 cases and five deaths were reported, with 651 patients on critical care, across Pakistan over the past 24 hours, according to data released by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), reported Dawn.
The positivity ratio, which was 0.69 per cent on December 13, 2021, rose to 6.12pc during the last 24 hours. Karachi reported 20.45pc positivity, Lahore 10.7pc, Rawalpindi 7.35pc, Islamabad 6.3pc, Gilgit 5.88pc and Gujrat 5.81pc.
Notably, the first case of Omicron variant of Covid-19 was detected on December 13 in Karachi and since then the number of cases has been skyrocketing in the country. (Image source: Instagram)

Chinese soldiers threw stones at Vietnamese at border fence, Ha Giang province – Reports


Ha Giang [Vietnam]: A video posted on the Twitter account of one Lee Ann Quann on January 3 shows Chinese soldiers throwing stones at Vietnamese construction workers and abusing the unarmed workers, in Ha Giang province of northern Vietnam, bordering China.

“The Chinese soldiers shouted and threw stones at the Vietnamese digging along the Vietnam-China border. Civilian workers guarded the riverbanks on the Vietnamese side to prevent erosion when the river water was tight”, wrote Lee Ann Quann in a caption on the video clip, reported The Hong Kong Post.
This comes at a time when Vietnamese agricultural exports to China have halted, Chinese ports are clogged and the Vietnamese trucks which have returned from border areas are selling their products at throwaway prices.

A popular blog in vernacular language, which is prohibited by the Vietnamese government for anti-China articles, published an article referencing the tweet and commemorating the 1979 China-Vietnam War on January 4.

The article pointed out that the Chinese side is trying to encroach on territory to the North, after signing an agreement on the demarcation of the land border in late 1999 on the China-Vietnam border. It also added that the people do not know the Chinese stand and are confused when the Chinese side acts like this on the China-Vietnam border, reported The HK Post.

British journalist Bill Hayton commented: “Obviously something is happening along the border between Vietnam and China. (Thousands) of trucks got stuck (at the border) and now this is happening to the world…”.

He also mentioned, “I guess the Chinese side is rehearsing for confrontation with shields”. (Image – LatestLY)

‘Thousands of Pakistan Opposition activists to join long march against Imran Khan govt next month’


Islamabad [Pakistan], (ANI): After Pakistan opposition announced a long march against Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government from Karachi, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said it expects thousands of its activists will participate in the march, which is scheduled to kick off next month, local media reported on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s Sindh Information and Labour Minister and president of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Karachi Division, Saeed Ghani, on Tuesday announced that the party would organise protest demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins at the district-level in the city over the issues of hikes in the prices of essential commodities, unemployment and a shortage of natural gas in the country due to “incompetence on the part of the federal government on February 27”, The News International reported.
Ghani said the preparations had begun for the commencement of the long march from Karachi next month.

He recalled that the PPP was the only political party that had lately staged protest demonstrations throughout the country against the “incompetence and ill-advised economic policies of the government” that had resulted in hikes in the prices of essential products, joblessness and gas crisis, The News International reported.

The Pakistani publication reported that Ghani said that the 220 million masses of the country had to face immense hardships as the rulers did not have competency and eligibility to manage the governance-related affairs.

He said the protest drive was being accelerated, and demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins would be staged on a daily basis in all districts of the Karachi Division.

He further stated that the food cost inflation had simply become unbearable for the public to the extent that they did not have the financial capacity to arrange meals just twice a day for their families. (Image-Instagram)

Voices against China continue to rise in Nepal; anti-China protests a daily affair

Kathmandu [Nepal] (ANI/Khabarhub): As China continues to increase political, economic and cultural presence, including controversial approaches and pressure in Nepal, Nepalis have started hitting the streets holding anti-China demonstrations across the country.
China has intensified its activities – overt and covert — in Nepal of late. Lambasting China’s “conspiracy” to try to leave its footprint in Nepal through its role in all sectors and the strategic realm, several social organizations have organized protest rallies in the country.
To note, the Swantantra Nagarik Samaj (Independent Citizens Group) hit the streets of Kathmandu criticizing China for “interfering” in Nepal’s political as well as economic sectors and encroaching Nepal’s land in different northern districts, including Humla.
That is not all. The demonstrators also criticized China for imposing an undeclared blockade in Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani border points by not allowing Nepali goods to enter Nepal.
In a blatant violation of its own commitment, the northern neighbor has tightened its grip at the Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point that was brought into operation declaring it as a major international border under its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
It should be noted that the government led by the then Prime Minister KP Oli formed after the promulgation of the new Constitution in Nepal in 2015 has taken special initiatives to open the northern border, which, however, has not functioned smoothly.
A transit agreement, too, was signed between Nepal and China in 2016 to allow the import and export of goods from third countries through Chinese ports.
To recall, it was also announced during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2019 that Nepal would be transformed from a landlocked to a “land-linked” country.
With this, Nepal was expected to be able to exercise its right of transit through Chinese territory and help increase Nepal’s exports.
However, this has been limited to papers since Nepali businessmen have not been able to import goods from the bordering Chinese markets.
Meanwhile, a transit protocol was also signed on April 29, 2019, during President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s state visit to China to implement the agreement.
According to Article 15 of the Protocol, the agreement had to be implemented exactly one month after each country informed the other of its enforcement.
Despite months of efforts to increase the daily import quota, China has not opened the border points under various pretexts because of which Nepali traders are compelled to pay a hefty amount of money for goods and transportation.
Consider what Arjun Poudel, a truck driver in Rasuwa has to say: “China has not allowed smooth operation of trucks carrying Nepali goods.”
It also should be recalled that China had allowed Nepal to use four open seaports — Shenzhen, Tianjin, Zhanjiang and Lianyungang — and three open dry ports — Shenzhen, Tianjin, Zhanjiang and Lianyungang.
Nepal has six border ports in China for transit. Although Nepal has access to Rasuwa-Jilong, Kodari-Jangmu, Kimathangka-Chhentang, Nechung-Liji, Yari-Pulan and Olangchungola-Riu ports, it has not been formally used.
However, though import and export are done only through Rasuwa and Tatopani checkpoints, both the points have been obstructed on the part of the Chinese government.
In the meantime, the checkpoints continue to be obstructed without enough concrete reason and consultation with the Nepali side.
Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizens Uma Regmi at the sixth anniversary celebration of the China Foundation for Poverty Elevation Nepal said China should make arrangements for easy import and export of goods from the border.
Nepalis from different quarters of life have been taking China’s increased pressure as lessons to be learned on how China behaves with its neighbors.
Meanwhile, observers and analysts have to say that China is continuously exerting pressure on Nepalis, seeking benefits of good faith will have a negative impact on Nepal.
Speaking to Khabarhub recently, businessman Phurbu Tsering Tamang, who owns a shop in Kerung, said that they are compelled to pay a hefty amount of money (around 2 to 3 lakhs per month) as house rent there without operating his business.
Besides obstructing the border checkpoints, China has been playing foul to spoil Nepal’s relations with the United States of America by creating a fuss on the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Of late, China has politicized the MCC by disseminating wrong facts.
Nepal Democrat Union (NDU), a Nepali social organization, in a statement issued recently said that China through its intelligence wing ‘Ministry of State Security’ has been disseminating propaganda and misinformation to attack Nepal’s sovereignty, obstruct the passage of United States grant MCC in Nepal at any cost and sever Nepal’s ties with democracies in the world, including the US.
The NDU in a demonstration organized in New Baneswor, Kathmandu recently also drew the attention of Nepali lawmakers against China’s negative influences and interventions in the internal affairs of the country.
It also condemned what it called “authoritarian Communist China’s all-out interference in Nepal aimed at undermining Nepal’s identity, communal harmony and the country’s ties with foreign nations.”
The demonstrators also raised the issue of land encroachment by China in various bordering districts, including Humla, Mustang, Gorkha, Rasuwa and Dolakha, among others alleging that “hoisting of Chinese flag in Bhairahawa-based airport last month was meant to signify that Nepal was its subordinate nation.”
It also said that discord was being promoted among Nepal’s political forces and cadres leading to social conflicts and a split of parties under the guise of MCC.
Meanwhile, Rastriya Ekata Abhiyan, a civil society organization, also staged a demonstration against China in Janakpur this week against what it said Chinese “expansionism”, land encroachment in various parts of the country and unofficial blockade at Rasuwa and Tatopani border points, among others.
The demonstrators carrying placards that read ‘Go Back China’, ‘Put brakes on Chinese Intervention’, ‘Stop border encroachment’, ‘Stop undeclared blockade against Nepal’ and ‘Arrange for a continuation of the study of Nepali students’, among others, also burnt the effigy of Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi.
That’s not all. Leaders at a program in Saptari also alleged China for interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs.
They lambasted China for using Nepali soil to fulfill its vested interest, and trying to entice the people of Tarai Madhes in a bid to fulfill its “debt trap” strategy.
Nepali Congress (NC) leader and intellectual Sabur Lal Sahu alleged Chinese companies exploiting Nepali workers by bringing workers from China to Madhes.
Likewise, Umesh Mishra, the regional chairperson of Nepali Congress (NC) Province-2, accused China of trying to increase contacts with some leaders of the Madhesi parties to increase its influence.
Birendra Sah, a central member of the Loktantirk Socialist Party said, “BRI project has been a ploy to impose a debt burden on poor nations, including Nepal.”
“BRI project should not be allowed to be implemented in Nepal,” he added.
Khabarhub had recently published a story saying that an MSS official Ling alias Oscar Ning (who holds two passports PE 0350392, PE 17327 79) has been running covert operations by stationing in Kathmandu to further the Chinese agenda in Nepal.
“Any interference from China cannot be tolerable to freedom-loving Nepalis,” Ganesh Mandal, a political analyst told Khabarhub saying that the democratic world is with Nepal and the Nepali people.
It may be noted that the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi has lately intensified political meetings with Nepali political leaders, mainly Communists.
Last week, she held talks with Jhala Nath Khanal, coordinator of the task force formed by the ruling coalition and leader of the CPN (Unified-Socialist) to recommend the government about the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
During the meeting, the Chinese Ambassador sought updates regarding the task force’s study on MCC, among other issues, according to sources.
Observers have to note that the meeting between Khanal and Ambassador Yanqi was meaningful when the task force has been entrusted to “suggest” the government about the widely-discussed US grant agreement MCC.
What is to be recalled is that Chinese Ambassador Yanqi intensifies political meetings with Nepal’s leaders when the debates surrounding MCC escalates.
Analyst Saroj Mishra views that the time has come to decide and act – for or against MCC as general people, who have absolutely no idea about MCC, have been provoked and have been brought down to the streets.
Meanwhile, in what can be termed as another instance of political interference, Chinese Deputy Minister Chen Zhao in Shenzhen emphasized Left unity among Nepal’s communist forces during a meeting with Maoist leader Barsaman Pun in China recently.
During the meeting, he expressed the confidence that the Maoists would be further strengthened under Prachanda’s leadership, and that the Chinese Communist Party and the CPN-Maoist Center were the closest allies and would strengthen the ties in the days to come. (Image source: Instagram)

Pak election commission uncovers Imran Khan-led PTI’s Rs 310 million foreign funds


Islamabad [Pakistan],(ANI): In a new damning revelation, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) revealed that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had given false information on funding received from abroad and in fact, hid its real assets to the tune of Pak Rupees (PKR) 310 million.

The report of the ECP’s scrutiny committee has come like a bombshell to the party and its leader at a time when the Prime Minister stands isolated both domestically and internationally, reported The Singapore Post.
The opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called the PTI, a “party of thieves”.

The ECP report, which was made public on 5 January 2022, informed that the PTI received PKR 1.64 billion in funding. The ECP had formed a Scrutiny Committee in 2019 to audit foreign funding received by the PTI. Ironically, this was done at the behest of one of the PTI’s founding members Akbar S Babar in 2014.

He had then alleged that the PTI had got funds from illegal sources abroad. On the ECP’s report being made public recently, Babar tweeted his thanks to Allah, saying he stood “vindicated”, reported The Singapore Post.

According to the data given by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to the ECP, the PTI has 26 bank accounts. Between 2008 and 2013, the PTI disclosed receipt of funds amounting to PKR 1.33 billion to the ECP, whereas SBP figures show the actual amount received at PKR 1.64 billion. The ECP report states that PTI failed to disclose three bank accounts, thus the discrepancy in receipt of funds, reported The Singapore Post.

More damning was the revelation that the PTI had received USD 2.34 million from the US, but the committee had been unable to access these bank accounts. Further, the PTI also received funds from the UK, Denmark, Dubai, Japan, Canada and Australia, apart from a few other countries.

A private bank provided details to SBP regarding USD 2.2 million funds being received by the PTI from Dubai, however, the scrutiny committee couldn’t get further details. It was also unable to obtain information related to the funds received from the UK and Europe.

The ECP scrutiny team report also revealed that the PTI had concealed 53 bank accounts, reporting only 12 in the foreign funding case. The report said the SBP revealed that the PTI had 65 bank accounts, reported The Singapore Post.

This is not the first time that Imran Khan or his party the PTI have been accused of corruption. In 2018, in the run-up to the publication of the Pandora Papers, Pakistani television station, ARY-News had reported, “the owner of two offshore companies registered at a similar address as of Prime Minister Imran Khan has revealed that they were registered by him on a different address and denied any role of the premier in this regard.”

The Pandora Papers also revealed that key members of Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers, their families and major financial backers had secretly owned an array of companies and trusts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth, reported The Singapore Post. (Image – twitter)

Taliban warns Tajikistan, Uzbekistan to return Afghan aircraft or face consequences


Kabul [Afghanistan](ANI): Taliban’s acting Defense Minister Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid on Tuesday warned Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to return the Afghan aircraft or they will face consequences.

Speaking at a ceremony in Kabul, during which the air force held an exercise, Mujahid said the military aircraft that were taken abroad should be returned, reported Tolo News.
He warned that if the countries where the military aircraft were taken do not return them, they will face consequences. “Our aircraft that are in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan should be returned. We will not allow these aircraft to remain abroad or to be used by those countries,” he said.

The acting defense minister said they will not allow any country to use Afghan military aircraft that were taken out of Afghanistan, reported Tolo News.

The Taliban Defense Ministry said that after the collapse of the former government, over 40 helicopters were transported to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

A number of Russian-made helicopters that were inactive due to technical problems have been repaired by the Islamic Emirate and were showcased on Tuesday. “Our future air force will be dependent on no country,” the acting defense minister said, reported Tolo News.

According to reports, before the fall of the former government, Afghanistan had over 164 active military aircraft and now only 81 are in the country. The rest were taken out of Afghanistan and brought to different countries. Image-Unspalsh)

Shehbaz Sharif, Bilawal seek judicial commission into Murree deaths, ask Imran Khan to quit


Islamabad [Pakistan] (ANI): Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shehbaz Sharif has asked for the formation of a judicial commission to probe deaths of 23 tourists during snowfall in Murree and has said that PM Imran Khan should quit.

“We will not agree on less than the formation of a judicial commission to probe the deaths of 23 tourists who were stranded in their vehicles during snowfall in Murree,” the Opposition leader said while taking part in a debate on the Murree tragedy said, reported The News International.
“Prime Minister should quit if his Government could not handle rush in Murree and avert the human disaster,” he added.

Pakistan’s Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also showed his support for the formation of a judicial commission.

“I will also request you to use your good offices to form the judicial commission,” he said, reported the newspaper.

Pakistan on Sunday formed a committee to probe the deaths of more than 20 people stranded in their vehicles in snow-hit Murree.

A notification was issued after the names of its members were finalised, according to which Additional Chief Secretary Home Zafar Nasrullah has been appointed as the convener, reported Geo News.

Provincial secretaries Ali Sarfaraz and Asad Gilani have been named as members of the committee. In addition, Assistant Inspector General Farooq Mazhar has also been named as a member.

Notably, at least 23 people died in Pakistan’s Murree after their vehicles were stranded following heavy snowfall overnight, local media reported. (Image – unsplash)

China reports first community spread of Omicron variant

Tianjin [China] (ANI): China has reported its first community spread Omicron cases, with two people confirmed with the coronavirus variant in Tianjin city, a Singapore-based newspaper The Strait Times stated citing local media reports.
Port city Tianjin has begun mass-testing its 14 million residents following its first community-spread Omicron cases on January 9. The confirmed Omicron cases belong to a cluster of 20 children and adults at an after-school care centre in Tianjin, which borders Beijing, the capital city, The Strait Times reported.
They include 15 students aged between eight and 13, a staff member at the centre and four parents.
The Omicron patients are a 10-year-old student and the staff member, who is a 29-year-old woman. Neither have travelled out of the city in the past 14 days, the reports added, as per The Strait Times.
The mass testing, which started on Sunday, is expected to end by Monday.
Beijing has also been on high alert by making it mandatory for anyone entering the city to undergo COVID-19 testing and allowing only fully vaccinated individuals in for certain events as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics on February 4.
Xi’an, the provincial capital of Shaanxi in northern China, has reported more than 1,900 cases in its latest flare-up. The city of 13 million people have also been under a strict lockdown for weeks, as per the publication.
On Sunday, mainland China reported 92 new COVID-19 cases, with 56 of them from Henan, 30 from Shaanxi, three in Tianjin, two in Zhejiang in south-eastern China and one in Guangdong province in the south, The Strait Times reported. (Image source: Instagram)

Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremony downsized amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Beijing [China] (ANI): China has downsized the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chinese Film Director Zhang Yimou has announced that the opening ceremony will be much smaller than that of the 2008 Summer Games held in the capital, reported NHK World. Zhang has been appointed chief director of the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies, reprising his role in the 2008 Olympics.
He said the opening ceremony on February 4 at the National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, will feature about 3,000 performers and last less than 100 minutes, reported NHK World.
The number of performers is one-fifth that of the 2008 ceremony and the length is less than half.
With less than one month to go before the Olympics, community infections of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been confirmed in the city of Tianjin, adjacent to Beijing, and the inland province of Henan, reported NHK World.
Whereas the 2008 Summer Olympics was widely regarded as China’s “coming out party” on the world stage (replete with the official theme song, “Beijing Welcomes You”), the 2022 Winter Games will be held within a tightly sealed Covid-safe “bubble” isolating participants and attendees from the wider Chinese population. (Image source: Unsplash)

Karachi witnesses harrowing spike in COVID-19 cases


Karachi [Pakistan](ANI): Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, experienced an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases, with the virus positivity ratio reaching over 15% on Saturday, said the authorities from the Sindh health department.

According to the head of Dow Diagnostic Research and Reference Laboratory (DDRRL), 87% of patients were affected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, of which 60% were women, reported Geo News.
The Sindh Government has decided to start a door-to-door vaccination drive next week, as the country observes the fast spread of Omicron.

COVID-19 vaccinations have been distributed by the Sindh health department to dozens of private hospitals and laboratories.

The virus is harming fully vaccinated persons, as well as those who have had a booster vaccine in certain circumstances, according to health experts, reported Geo News.

However, when compared to individuals who are unvaccinated or have only received a single dosage, the symptoms and their intensity in vaccinated individuals are observed to be reduced. (Image Instagram)

Beijing supports Kazakhstan in maintaining stability, stopping violence: Chinese FM


Beijing [China], (ANI): Wang Yi, the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister, on Monday said that as a permanent comprehensive strategic partner of Kazakhstan, China is willing to firmly support it in maintaining stability and stopping violence at this critical moment concerning the central Asian country’s future.

Wang made the remarks during a phone conversation with Mukhtar Tleuberdi, the Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, reported Xinhua.
This comes at a time when Turkey also showed its support to Kazakhstan in light of the violent riots that shook the country and initiated an online meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Turkic States.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister, after a conversation with his Kazakh counterpart Mukhtar Tleuberdi, said that the event will take place on January 11.

He also stated that Ankara is ready to provide Nur-Sultan with any necessary assistance. Turkey is concerned that Russia has knocked out of the chain of the “Turkic world” the main link – Kazakhstan reported Victoria Panfilova. (image – Aljazzera)

Taliban has to fulfil promises if they want their financial resources to be unfrozen: UN official

Kabul [Afghanistan] (ANI): The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) High Commissioner Filippo Grandi has said that the Taliban has to fulfil some promises if they want their financial resources to be unfrozen.

The UN commissioner for refugees further said that Afghan women and girls must be allowed to attend schools, and minorities must be represented, reported Tolo News.
Meanwhile, he also told the Washington Post that it is important to maintain dialogue with the Islamic Emirate, saying that this will ensure that Afghanistan is “viable”, reported Tolo News.

“But in the end, in the end, it is important to maintain that dialogue with the Taliban, because all these systems will be temporary in nature, and how to ensure that Afghanistan is viable, is a viable country able to support its people, I think will only be achieved through dialogue between the international community and the Taliban themselves,” said Grandi.

Grandi added that he delivered the same message to the Islamic Emirate when he was visiting Kabul that the “Taliban” has to fulfil some promises if they want their financial resources to be unfrozen, reported Tolo News.

“When I was in Kabul, and when my colleagues were there, we all told the Taliban the same message. If you want your resources to be unfrozen, if you want the country to enjoy again substantive development support by the international community, you also have to take steps in their direction. It’s–it goes both ways, but it is a dialogue. It cannot be a wall-to-wall situation, said Grandi.

Following the Taliban takeover in mid-August, the US froze nearly 10 billion dollars in Afghanistan’s assets and slapped sanctions on the Islamic Emirate.

In the meantime, the stoppage of foreign aids to Afghanistan has crippled the already fragile economic system of Afghanistan and has adversely affected the lives of millions of people.[ Image Source- DepositPhotos]

Chinese Foreign Minister held talks with Sri Lankan Prime Minister

Beijing [China]: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday held talks with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and discussed several issues including tourism, investments, and fight against the COVID-19 to mark the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Wang arrived in Colombo on Saturday from the Maldives where he reached on Friday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations of China and the Maldives. Taking to Twitter, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister also announced that he had a “very pleasant meeting” with Wang Yi.
“Had a very pleasant meeting with the Foreign Minister of China. Discussions centred around the logistics of facilitating the return of the many lka med students to China. Also discussed were a host of issues including Tourism, investments, COVID-19, SL relief & post-Covid preparedness,” Mahinda Rajapaksa tweeted.
“I thanked #China and her people for the continued support to #lka. As both our nations celebrate 65 years of bilateral relations, I am hopeful that this relationship we share will only grow & be strengthened in the years to come,” he added.
As per Chinese media outlet, Global Times reported that Colombo will be the last stop of his first foreign visit in the new year.

North China’s Tianjin starts citywide nucleic acid testing amid spike in COVID-19 cases

Tianjin [China]: Authorities at North China’s Tianjin, a municipality that neighbours Beijing, have started a citywide nucleic acid testing after 20 people were tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, reported Xinhua.
The positive coronavirus cases were reported from 6 pm Friday to 9 pm Saturday in Jinnan District, said Xinhua. With the gene sequencing, the first two locally-confirmed cases were found to be infected with the Omicron variant, said the municipal centre for disease control and prevention.
The citywide nucleic acid testing began at 7 am on Sunday and is expected to be completed in 24 hours in four districts. In the 12 other districts the tests will begin from 7 am Monday, and residents will not be given a green health code until receiving the negative testing result, according to the centre.
It came as Xi’an, capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, is facing strict lockdown from December 23 due to the rising COVID-19 cases.
Officials on Saturday said that Xi’an reported 46 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Friday. The city has registered 1,959 local cases since December 9, 2021, amid the latest resurgence.

Death toll in Pakistan’s Murree snowfall surges to 23, thousands of stranded tourists evacuated


Islamabad [Pakistan]: The death toll from heavy snowfall in Pakistan’s Murree has surged to 23 on Sunday as the forces evacuate over a thousand tourists from the affected area, reported local media.

Hundreds of tourists have been transported to safe localities so far by the Islamabad police and continued the evacuation operation at full pace, ARY News quoted Inspector General Islamabad Muhammad Ahsan Younas.
Younas has inspected the progress of the ongoing evacuation operation for stranded citizens in Murree and more than 1500 police officers were deployed to take part in the evacuation operation that will be continued till the safe return of the last tourists from Murree.

On Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar declared Murree calamity hit the area. The Chief Minister also imposed a state of emergency in hospitals, police stations, and rescue services.

The administration had to call Pakistan Army for assistance in evacuations as around 1,000 cars were stuck on the hill station. Buzdar had issued instructions for expediting rescue work and providing aid to the stranded tourists, Dawn reported.

Rawalpindi administration presented a report to Punjab CM. It emphasized that the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) had not alerted the district administration about the unprecedented snowfall.

According to the report, Murree received five feet of snowfall, and the roads leading to the hill station were closed on the night of January 6. People were advised to avoid traveling to the area, reported ARY News. (ANI)

Chinese officials arrest Tibetan monks for sharing information of Buddha statue destruction

Beijing [China]: Chinese authorities in Sichuan province are arresting Tibetan monks and beating them over suspicion that they informed outside people about the destruction of the 99-foot tall Buddha statue in the country’s Luhuo county (Drago), a media report said.
The Buddha statue in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Region was demolished in December by officials who said the statue had been built too high, reported Radio Free Asia (RFA) citing Tibetan sources. Local monastery monks and other Tibetan residents were forced to witness the destruction, an action experts called part of an ongoing campaign to eradicate Tibet’s distinct national culture and religion, said RFA.
Chinese officials so far have arrested 11 monks from Drago’s Gaden Namgyal Ling monastery on suspicion of sending news and photos of the statue’s destruction to contacts outside the region, reported RFA citing a source.
“As of now, we have learned that Lhamo Yangkyi, Tsering Samdrup and four other Tibetans have been arrested for communicating outside Tibet,” RFA quoted the source as saying citing contacts in Drago.
The demolition of the statue began a few days before, said the source, adding that Abbot Pelga, his assistant Nyima, and the monks Tashi Dorje and Nyima from the monastery in Drago were taken into custody. Chinese officials said that they need to be taught a lesson, the source informed.
He also said that the officials brutally beat the monks and did not give them food in prison. One of the monks was brutally beaten by them as his one of eyes got badly injured.
Religious believers in China can not rely on legal or constitutional safeguards of their faith, said Sophie Richardson, China director for New York-based Human Rights Watch after the arrest of monks over-sharing news of statue demolition.
Richardson also said that Beijing in its current phase of “ultranationalist and statist ideology gives all power to the state, and regards civil society with suspicion and contempt, according to RFA.

This is what Nawaz Sharif has to say about Imran Khan


Islamabad [Pakistan], (ANI): Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed his party workers to not let Imran Khan off the hook after a report of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) scrutiny committee revealed that PTI has hidden foreign funding worth millions of rupees.

“Do not let (prime minister) Imran Khan off the hook as he has been caught red-handed while stealing money through the party’s foreign funding. His so-called honest image has completely been shattered and he should be exposed before the nation,” Nawaz told a party meeting, which was attended by its central and Punjab leadership, including Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, in Model Town here on Thursday via video link, reported Dawn.
He told the party members to not allow both houses of Parliament to run smoothly until “justice” is served.

According to a party member, Nawaz Sharif told PML-N leaders not to let the subject die down until it reaches its natural conclusion.

Nawaz Sharif, who has been in the UK for ‘medical treatment’ since November 2019, urged the participants to expose Prime Minister Imran Khan’s alleged fraud on all platforms.

The PML-N supreme leader, Shehbaz Sharif, has been told to begin convening workers’ conventions at the district and divisional levels in Punjab, in order to mobilise party members ahead of the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM), planned an anti-inflation march on Islamabad in March.

“Don’t let the National Assembly, Punjab Assembly and Senate run smoothly, and aggressively agitate this matter in which the true face of Imran Khan has been exposed,”, he was quoted as saying.

“We don’t have to allow an easy escape to ‘the selected’ on this matter,” he maintained.

According to a party source, taking the case to court was also discussed, but no decision was reached. “The party will first see what action the ECP takes,” he said.

“Nawaz Sharif also directed the party leadership to gear up for a decisive anti-inflation march on Islamabad proposed by the PDM in March. For this purpose, the former PM said workers’ conventions should be held at the district and divisional levels and also re-organisation of the party completed at the district level at the earliest,” an insider said, reported Dawn News.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has also scheduled a long march against the PTI government in Islamabad on February 27.

Bangladesh suffers huge loss due to China


Dhaka [Bangladesh]: Some Chinese companies are involved in printing and supplying counterfeit documents in Bangladesh, causing huge losses to the government exchequer.

Although the Bangladeshi port authorities suspect the involvement of other Chinese companies in such illegal activities, they were apparently reluctant to take action due to ‘pressure’ from senior officials, reported Bangladesh Live News.
Trade in counterfeit and pirated goods has risen in recent years and it is estimated at about 3.5% of global trade by OECD.

The World Customs Organization estimates that 65 % of all counterfeit shipments globally originate from mainland China.

According to OECD, trade-in fake goods which infringe on trademarks and copyrights, creates profits for organized gangs at the expense of companies and governments.

Chinese companies are notorious for faking branded products.

Global Alliance for Tax Justice says, Bangladesh loses USD 143.96 million in tax income each year, or BD Taka 1235 crore, due to global tax evasion by multinational firms and rich people, reported Bangladesh Live News.

Despite the fact that the Chinese business had reported the cargo to the Bangladeshi company to include Art/A4 size sheets, it was discovered that they were selling counterfeit band rolls/ stamps. This resulted in fraudulent tax avoidance of over BD Taka 250 crore.

Bandrolls are produced by the Bangladeshi government’s Security Printing Corporation, and cigarette/bidi firms are required to purchase them by paying tax/VAT, also known as cigarette tax.

The National Board of Money (NBR) generates revenue by selling these stamps / bandrolls, and no one else is permitted to purchase them other than from NBR. A bandroll is a narrow, thin ribbon that is wound around a packet of Bidi and Cigarettes. Certain corporate firms appear to have been obtaining the same from China.

According to reports, the Chittagong Customs House Port Control Unit (PCU) recently revealed that a Chinese business located in Shenzhen, ‘Digit Anti Fake Company Ltd’ (DAFC), had sold counterfeit band rolls/stamps to Chittagong-based Arafat Enterprise, said the news portal.

DAFC is also accused of printing various fake documents like passports, voting papers, national identity cards, birth registration certificates, and so on. Bangladeshi officials discovered a DAFC-run website that mentioned bandroll and said, “Bangladesh’s National Board of Revenue, Customs Paid.”

Significantly, following the consignment’s capture in Chittagong, the Chinese business has taken down its website, which featured a variety of fraudulent papers.

Counterfeit and pirated products commerce has increased in recent years, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimating that it accounts for around 3.5 per cent of global trade.

Counterfeit goods, which infringe on trademarks and copyrights, generates revenues for organised gangs at the expense of businesses and governments, according to the OECD. Chinese firms are well-known for imitating trademark goods.

COVID-19: No plan for lockdown at this time, says Pak Minister


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said on Thursday that the country does not have any plans to impose lockdown despite the Omicron-driven fifth wave.

The Minister’s statement came at a time when the COVID cases in the country for the last 24 hours have crossed the 1,000 mark. It reported a total of 1,084 new coronavirus cases in a day, reported the Dawn News.
“At this time there is no plan of imposing lockdowns. We are looking at COVID numbers very closely as we shared today what has happened in the rest of the world and what is starting to happen in Pakistan,” Umar told Geo News.

Last year on October 14, Pakistan has reported more than 1,000 cases with 1,086 cases and now the country is in the same state crossing the 1000 mark. According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the positivity rate has risen to 2.32 per cent.

Earlier, during a press conference, Head of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Asad Umar urged the public to take precautionary measures and get the vaccination done.

He shared his concern on the Omicron variant and said that vaccination will lead to a lesser impact of the Omicron wave and also pointed out that the Omicron strain is more in Karachi and Lahore. (ANI)

India in talks with Pakistan to work out modalities for supply of wheat to Afghanistan: MEA


Islamabad/New Delhi : External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Thursday said that India is in talks with Pakistan on modalities for the supply of 50,000 metric tons of wheat and life-saving medicines to Afghanistan.

“We are committed to supply life saving medicines along with 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat as humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. In this regard, we are in talks with Pakistani authorities on the modalities for shipment of wheat,” Bagchi said during the weekly briefing.
Earlier this month, India supplied another batch of humanitarian assistance consisting of 5,00,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin to Afghanistan.

Taking to Twitter, Bharat Biotech said, “On January 3, India supplied the next batch of humanitarian assistance consisting of 5,00,000 doses of COVID vaccine (COVAXIN) to Afghanistan. The same was handed over to Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kabul.”It also informed that another batch of additional 5,00,000 doses would be supplied in the coming weeks.

India has committed to provide to Afghan people humanitarian assistance consisting of food grains, one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine and essential life-saving drugs.

Last year in December, India delivered 1.6 tons of medical assistance to Afghanistan through the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Taliban took over control of Kabul on August 15 and following this the country has been battered by deepening economic, humanitarian and security crises.

A combination of a suspension of foreign aid, the freezing of Afghan government assets, and international sanctions on the Taliban have plunged a country already suffering from high poverty levels into a full-blown economic crisis.

Taliban bans women from sports activities


Kabul [Afghanistan]: A number of sports club owners in Kabul said that the Taliban has banned athletic sports for women.

“They (Islamic Emirate) don’t allow athletic sports (for women), although the women’s section was separated in the past and it is separated now too. The coach is also a woman, not a man. But let (women) be allowed to do their exercises,” said Hafizullah Abasi, head of a sports club, reported Tolo News.
“Since the Taliban came to power, I was not allowed to exercise. I referred to many sports clubs for training. But, unfortunately, they said that the women’s section is closed,” said Tahira Sultani, a coach of Taekwondo and mountaineering sports.

She has earned awards at the national level as well as abroad in the past eight years.

“I had a lot of desire and ambition over the past six years. I wanted to raise the flag of Afghanistan in the world in the best way,” said Arizo Ahmadi, a member of the national Jujutsu team, reported Tolo News.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Emirate said it would allow women’s sports based on Islamic values and Afghan culture.

“We will pursue the policy of the Islamic Emirate in all aspects. Whatever is allowed in our culture and tradition, we will allow it,” said Dad Mohmmad Nawa, spokesman for Physical Education and National Olympic Committee.

The ban of women in sports by the current government has faced criticism by international humanitarian organizations, reported Tolo News.

“According to Human Rights Watch, there have been a number of concerning reports, including, Taliban bans on women’s sports, limited women’s access to health care due to Taliban rules requiring women to be chaperoned by a man, suspension of international aid,” Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said earlier in a series of tweets. (ANI)

Terror, trust deficit fuels trouble on Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan, India

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan’s troubles along its border has increased amid tension with both Afghanistan and India.
The border trouble gives grave signals to its military-backed government that exporting terrorism would carry grave consequences, according to Al Arabiya. Earlier, Pakistani Rangers exchanged mortar fire with the Taliban in eastern Nangarhar province after the latter ripped away the border fence being laid by the Pakistani personnel in the third week of December last year.
The local Taliban official followed it up by threatening ‘a war’ if the Pakistanis persisted with the border fencing.
Further, Pakistani soldiers unleashed artillery in Afghanistan’s Kunar province following the incident in Nangarhar province’s Gushta area. This indicates that both sides have upped the ante along the disputed Durand boundary.
The Durand Line forms the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a 2,670-kilometre (1,660 mi) international land border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Further, the Taliban local affiliates mentioned that they have stopped the Pakistan military from erecting barbed wire fences and outposts in Afghanistan’s Nimroz province, according to local media.
On the other hand, around the same time in the third week of December ( 2021), Pakistan soldiers clashed with India in Jammu and Kashmir on the border when the Indians thwarted efforts to infiltrate militants.
The Indian Army had formally raised the issue of Pakistan Rangers starting a construction project just across the Line of Control, opposite Kupwara district in Jammu and Kashmir union.
But the two incidents portray Pakistan image which is obsessed with the Kashmir border dispute with India and has sought to ‘normalise’ the border with successive governments in Afghanistan, according to Al Arabiya.
Earlier, Islamabad invested heavily in the Taliban in the mid-1990s when the latter took power in Afghanistan and, again, after they were pushed out of power following the US-led invasion in 2001. Nearly two- decades’ sheltering and nurturing of the Taliban was meant to acquire “strategic depth” vis a vis the perennial enemy India.
However, the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul in August 2021, from securing that ‘depth’, has denied it even the basic peace with Afghanistan. Although landlocked and dependent upon Pakistan for reaching out to the sea, the Afghans have doggedly refused to acknowledge the British-era defined Durrand Line border according to Al Arabiya.

Pak opposition calls Imran Khan ‘thief’ after ECP committee report on foreign funding


Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan opposition parties on Tuesday slammed the Prime Minister after a report of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) scrutiny committee probing Imran Khan’s party funds revealed that it has hidden funds worth millions of rupees and called him a “thief”.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) spokesperson Hafiz Hamdullah, in a statement, said the scrutiny committee’s report has “revealed the theft of Imran Khan and PTI”, reported Geo News.
“The scrutiny committee has exposed the true face of the PTI before the nation […] Imran Khan and PTI, who accused others of theft, turned out to be thieves themselves,” he said.

The spokesperson said the report has “proven” that PM Imran Khan is “not sadiq and ameen” anymore, as he demanded the premier to disclose the purpose for which the hidden bank accounts were used.

Lashing out at Khan, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Vice-President Maryam Nawaz said Imran Khan had not only “stolen and hidden money, but also plundered the people”, reported Geo News.

Maryam said the “constant leaks, revelations, and evidence, are more than enough to bring down the PTI”.

“No other party in history has been behind such serious fraud and scandals,” she said.

“Has there been such a corrupt, liar, and conspiratorial ruler like Imran Khan in the history of Pakistan?” she asked.

The ECP report stated that the PTI provided “false information” regarding the party’s funding. It said that the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) statement revealed that the party had received Rs 1.64 billion in funding, Geo News reported.

According to the report, the party did not disclose funding worth more than Rs 310 million to the ECP.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s Central Information Secretary Shazia Marri, addressing a press conference in Lahore, asked the PTI and PM Imran Khan to provide complete bank account and funding details to the ECP.

“You have given details about 12 accounts, where are the details of the rest of the accounts […] PPP has submitted complete details of its accounts,” she said, Geo News reported.

Later, in a tweet, Marri said, “Imran Khan talashi do (give yourself up for examination).”

PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said that the scrutiny committee’s report had “washed away Imran Khan’s make up of honesty”.

“Imran Khan acts as the champion of transparency in the country, but in the foreign funding case, he is making lame excuses to stop the hearing; PTI is resorting to mudslinging to cover its own theft,” he said, reported Geo News.

The scrutiny committee was formed in 2019 to audit foreign funding received by the PTI. The case began in 2014 when the party’s founding member, Akbar S Babar, filed it.

Babar alleged that the PTI received funding from illegal sources and that the party was also involved in money laundering, according to Dawn. (ANI)

China criticizes Walmart for removal of all Xinjiang-sourced products


Hong Kong: China denounced Walmart for ‘stupidity’ after Sam’s Club, a warehouse retailer pulled all Xinjiang-sourced products from its app in the country.

Criticism on Chinese social media exploded, eventually leading a top Chinese anti-graft agency Friday to accuse Sam’s Club of “stupidity” and “shortsightedness,” reported CNN.
“Pulling all products from a region without a good reason hides a hidden agenda,” the ruling Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement, adding that Sam’s Club would “get a taste of its own medicine.”

The controversy started late last month when some Chinese users posted on social media that they couldn’t find Xinjiang-sourced products on the Sam’s Club app, reported CNN.

This was around the same time that US President Joe Biden signed into law new rules that effectively ban imports of products made in Xinjiang over longstanding concerns about alleged forced labour.

“I can’t find any of Xinjiang’s food products that I used to buy on Sam’s Club, including their famous red dates, raisins and apples,” one user posted December 22 in a snack discussion group on, a Chinese movie reviewing and social networking site, reported CNN.

“At the same time last year, these products were everywhere. But now I can’t find even one. It’s hard to believe they are not doing this on purpose,” added the user.

The user’s comments were echoed by many others who mentioned similar experiences. The discussion quickly spread to other social media platforms, including Weibo and social e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu.

As those claims were blowing up online,, a nationalistic Chinese news site, cited customer service representatives from Sam’s Club as saying that products sourced from Xinjiang were “sold out,” reported CNN.

Meanwhile, there’s still a lot that’s unclear about the allegations against Walmart and Sam’s Club in China. When asked by CNN Business on Monday about the dispute, Walmart (WMT) declined to comment.

Reached by phone this week, a Sam’s Club customer service representative told CNN Business that Xinjiang-sourced products were unavailable “mainly because of the storage situation.”

“At present, stores will also provide some similar goods for customers to choose,” the representative said. The company did not give any more details.

Chinese authorities have expressed scepticism about those reasons. In Friday’s statement, the CCDI accused Sam’s Club of trying to “muddle through” the controversy using ambiguity.

Walmart is not the only Western brand that has been ensnared over a dispute about human rights in Xinjiang, where up to 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to have been placed in detention centres across the region, according to the US State Department.

China has repeatedly and forcefully denied abusing the Uyghur people or using them to perform forced labour, instead of saying that Uyghurs are being taken to re-education camps in order to prevent religious extremism and terrorism.

China has also criticized Western companies that are cutting ties with Xinjiang, after facing pressure from governments or investors at home to do so.

Last March, H&M, Nike (NKE), Adidas (ADDDF) and other Western retailers were threatened with a boycott because of the stand they had taken against the alleged use of forced labour to produce cotton in Xinjiang.

H&M was even dropped by major Chinese e-commerce stores. In July, the European fashion retailer reported a more than 20 per cent fall in China sales following the boycott. (ANI)

China: Xi’an reports 90 locally transmitted COVID19 cases

Xi’an [China]: The Chinese city of Xi’an has reported 90 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
Eighty of the cases were found in quarantine, Global Times reported. The city registered 1,663 local cases between December 9, 2021 and Sunday, amid the latest resurgence of the virus.
Of the total number of cases, 17 have been cured, five are critical and 16 severe. The other cases are moderate to mild.
Starting from Monday, the city has added two more high-risk and seven medium-risk areas for COVID-19. Currently, Xi’an has three high-risk and 64 medium-risk areas.

Nepal tight-lipped over Chinese encroachment of its territory in border areas

Kathmandu [Nepal]: Kathmandu remains silent over China’s expansionist designs in the Himalayan nation as several media reports indicate illegal encroachments by Beijing in bordering districts including Humla, Gorkha, Darchula, Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk.
In September last year, a seven-member committee headed by the home secretary was formed by the Nepal government to study the Nepal-China border in the northern part of Humla. The team studied border pillars, especially in the Limi valley, and initial findings confirmed that there were some serious border issues between Nepal and China. Sources reveal that the Committee has finalized its report, but the Home Ministry withheld the findings as there has been no response from China over the issue.
Jaya Narayan Acharya who was the member of the team deployed to assess the situation and prepare a report said, “We have included geographical and socio-cultural issues and physical infrastructure built in the area in the report, along with our findings. Also, the findings during our interactions with the local people have been included in the report.”
“During the visit, we also found that the boundary pillars were fenced with wire and repaired but it is not known who actually did it. We have suggested the formation of joint inspection teams from both the countries and pursue the issue diplomatically,” Acharya added.
One of the ANI sources inside the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed that Nepal has approached the Chinese side over the issue but there has been no response to date over the issue.
The then government led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli directed the Chief District Officer (CDO) of Humla district to study and submit a report. The findings have not been made public, but Nepali newspapers quoted the CDO as saying that the construction seems to have taken place 1 kilometre inside Chinese territory.
It was opposed by the Nepali Congress who tabled a resolution in Parliament calling on Prime Minister Oli “to bring back these encroached territories by holding the dialogue,” with China.
The allegations also led to protests in front of the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, where protesters chanted slogans calling a “stop (to) Chinese Intervention” and to “Chinese Encroachment”. Nepali Congress leaders at that time even accused the Oli government of appeasing Beijing and remaining quiet when China had encroached on Nepali territory.
The relations between Nepal and China in the last few decades have improved significantly, especially after Tibet became a part of the autonomous region of China and, for the first time, the two neighbours share a boundary of 1,439 kilometres.
Nepal and China decided to delineate and demarcate the boundary line through the Nepal-China Boundary Agreement on March 21, 1960. This boundary agreement replaced the Treaty of Thapathali and recognized China’s sovereignty over Tibet and agreed to surrender all privileges and rights granted by the old treaty.
After a detailed survey and mapping on both sides, a formal settlement of the Boundary treaty was finalised on October 5, 1961.
The boundary line was demarcated on the basis of traditional use by the country, possessions and convenience. There were conflict areas where the policy of ‘give and take’ was used.
Nepal had given about 1,836 square kilometres of land to China, while China had given Nepal 2,139 square kilometres of land.
Furthermore, the watershed principle of the Himalayan range was used to demarcate the boundary on the Northern side. The area encompasses various passes, mountain peaks and pasture lands.
In the cases in which the pasture lands of a citizen of one country falls on the other side of the border, the choice of citizenship was given to the landowner.
However, there were some minor conflicts that emerged over the boundary over the last few decades.
For instance, in the north of Lapchigaun in the Lamabagar area of Dolakha district, the pillar marked 57 has been claimed to be placed inside Nepal instead of what was initially assumed.
The dispute concerns six hectares of land and because of this dispute, the fourth protocol is still on hold.
There was another conflict regarding the ownership of Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) but with Chou En-lai’s visit to Kathmandu in 1960, he made it clear that Mount Everest belongs to the people of Nepal.

More Chinese ships tried to enter Japan’s territorial waters in 2021


Tokyo [Japan]: Japan’s coast guard on Monday said that more Chinese ships tried to enter the country’s territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

As per Japan Coast Guard officials, 18 cases of Chinese government vessels approaching Japanese boats were confirmed in 2021, up from eight cases in 2020, reported NHK World.
Tensions have escalated in the recent past between Japan and China over Senkaku island amid rising Chinese activities in waters surrounding the islands.

Japan controls the islands. The Japanese government maintains that they are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. Meanwhile, both China and Taiwan claim them.

The Japan Coast Guard also reported 34 cases of Chinese government vessels sailing into Japanese waters last year. That’s up 10 from the previous year, reported NHK World.

Chinese ships sailed within the contiguous zone outside Japan’s territorial waters on 332 days in 2021, almost the same as the previous year’s record of 333 days.

China is increasing its maritime activities. Last February, the country enacted a law allowing its coast guard to forcibly remove foreign ships that it says illegally enter the country’s waters, and to use weapons against them if they do not comply with certain orders, reported NHK World.

An expert on international maritime law said that China’s moves could further intensify.

Kobe University Professor Emeritus Sakamoto Shigeki said that China intends to undermine Japan’s effective control of the islands by cracking down on Japanese fishing boats, reported NHK World.

Considering the Chinese ante, the Japan Coast Guard is stepping up its vigilance. It plans to add 10 large patrol vessels to its fleet by fiscal 2025.

US sanctions trigger protest in Kabul

Kabul [Afghanistan]: After the US has frozen nearly ten billion dollars of Afghanistan’s assets and has imposed sanctions on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, dozens of people took to the streets of Kabul on Sunday demanding the lifting of sanctions.
The protestors urged for the US sanctions on Afghanistan to be lifted as it has aggravated the economic crisis, reported The Khaama Press. The protesters said that the US must lift imposed sanctions and ease economic pressures on Afghanistan and allow the Afghan people to rebuild their country.
Following the Taliban takeover in mid-August, the US froze nearly 10 billion dollars in Afghanistan’s assets and slapped sanctions on the Islamic Emirate.
On December 21, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of the capital towards the US embassy, calling for the release of Afghanistan’s frozen funds, reported Pajhwok Afghan News.
In the meantime, the stoppage of foreign aids to Afghanistan has crippled the already fragile economic system of Afghanistan and has adversely affected the lives of millions of people.

Beginning of another Covid wave in Pakistan, says minister amid rising Omicron cases

Islamabad [Pakistan]: The Pakistan government on Sunday warned of a beginning of another COVID-19 wave in the country amid rising cases following the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) Chief and Planning Minister Asad Umar took to his official Twitter handle and stated that genome sequencing has shown a rising proportion of Omicron, “particularly in Karachi”. “Clear evidence now of a beginning of another covid wave which has been expected for last few weeks. Genome sequencing showing rising proportion of omicron cases particularly in Karachi. Remember: wearing a mask is your best protection,” he tweeted.
He urged people to wear masks, adding that it was their “best protection”.
Umar’s tweet comes a few days after the National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed 75 cases of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 across the country, two weeks after the first case was reported in Karachi.
The local government imposed a 15-day micro-smart lockdown in Karachi’s District East on Saturday after the emergence of at least 12 cases of Omicron variant in the area.
As the local transmission of the most transmissible variant of Covid-19, Omicron, is now being reported from all across the country, Pakistan’s positivity rate remained over 1 per cent for the second consecutive day on Saturday, Dawn reported.

China warns Taipei of ‘decisive measures’ after Taiwan President advises Beijing to curb military adventurism


Taipei [Taiwan]: China warned Taipei of “decisive measures” following Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s advice to Beijing to curb its military adventurism, reported local media.

Cross-strait tensions are caused by Taiwan’s ruling party “Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration’s refusal to recognise the 1992 consensus, unchecked plotting for independence and provocations, and collusion with outside forces to fight against the mainland in a bid to change the fact that ‘both sides of the Strait belong to one China,” Taiwan News quoted Zhu Fenglian, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson as saying on Saturday.
She responded to the earlier New Year address of Tsai, where the Taiwanese president called on China to resolve their differences peacefully, saying Beijing should curb the spread of “military adventurism.”

Tsai strongly protested against China’s “military incursions,” which she said “are of no benefit to the preservation of regional peace and stability,” reported NHK World.

If pro-independence forces “continue to provoke and force us, and even go past the red line, we will have no choice but to take ‘decisive measures”, said Zhu.

Chinese spokesperson also said that Under the DPP, the Taiwan government “constantly produces lies, hikes up animosity, and sells hatred for political gains,” according to Taiwan News.

Beijing is willing to put in the maximum effort to fight for “the peaceful prospect for unification,” said Zhu, adding, taking the path with a dead-end that is Taiwan’s independence will only push Taiwan into a pit and bring upon the Taiwanese comrades heavy disaster.

Pakistan reports over 500 COVID-19 cases, 6 deaths in last 24 hours

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Pakistan on Saturday reported over 500 COVID-19 new cases for the second consecutive days and six deaths in the last 24 hours.
According to the government’s official COVID portal, Pakistan recorded a total of 556 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, whereas 6 more fatalities were recorded, reported The Express Tribune. Pakistan has so far recorded a total of 1,295,933 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started. At least 28,933 people have succumbed to the infection
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s COVID positivity rate has risen to 1.08 per cent, reported National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
Further, a 15-day micro-smart lockdown was imposed in block 7 of Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal after the emergence of at least 12 cases of Omicron variant in the area, reported The Express Tribune.
“In exercise of powers conferred under Section 3 of the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act 2014 (as amended in 2020), I, Taha Saleem, Deputy Commissioner District Karachi East hereby impose smart lockdown and micro-smart lockdown, which shall be enforced in the streets and houses of specified area respectively as given below, for a definite period of two weeks only,” read the notification by the deputy commissioner’s office.
After the imposition of the smart lockdown, there will be a ban on all sorts of public gatherings in the area, the notification said, adding that the government will strictly enforce the implementation of the SOPs, reported The Express Tribune.
“In order to reduce the transmission and spread of COVID-19, besides mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing interventions, it is also fundamental to ensure isolation, contact tracing and testing being the three pillars of TTT (TTQ) strategy of the government for the containment of Covid-19,” the notification added.
According to the notification, the restrictions will remain in place till January 14 to avert a health crisis.
On Tuesday, the National Institute of Health confirmed 75 cases of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 across the country, reported The Express Tribune.
“Since the WHO (World Health Organisation) designated Omicron as a Variant of Concern on November 26, 2021, the Ministry of NHSRC (National Health Systems Resource Centre), NCOC, NIH (National Institute of Health) and the provincial health departments have remained vigilant to detect the variant in Pakistan,” read an official statement.
“The first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was reported on December 13 in Karachi. As of December 27, 2021, a total of 75 Omicron cases have been confirmed – 33 in Karachi, 17 in Islamabad and 13 in Lahore,” it had added.

Sri Lanka food prices hit record highs, inflation rises to 12.1 pc in December


Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Sri Lanka’s food prices hit record highs as inflation increased to 12.1 per cent in December last year, up 2.2 per cent from November in the same year.

The change in the Colombo Consumer Price Index, measured on an annual average basis, rose to 6.0 per cent in December from 5.3 per cent in November, reported Sri Lankan NewsRadio.
Issuing a statement, the Central Bank said factors in the supply chain were the main contributors to the increase in inflation.

The Central Bank statement noted that Inflation was driven by monthly increases in prices of items in both food and non-food categories, reported NewsRadio.

Subsequently, food inflation increased to 22.1 per cent in December 2021 from 17.5 per cent in November 2021, while non-food inflation increased to 7.5 per cent in December 2021 from 6.4 per cent in November 2021.

Pakistan faces 5th COVID-19 wave amid COVID spike

Islamabad [Pakistan]: In view of the rising cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19, Pakistan is now facing the fifth wave of coronavirus, and cases may peak in late January or early February, local media reported citing health experts.
According to Samaa TV, Islamabad on Friday reported 34 new cases of the Omicron variant. At least 66 of the total cases have been reported from Islamabad so far. On Thursday, eleven members of a single-family were tested positive for the Omicron variant in Karachi. They were infected with the Omicron variant from Lahore.
Karachi East Deputy Commission on Friday issued a notification to impose smart and micro-smart lockdown in certain areas of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Block-7 for two weeks, Samaa TV reported.
It further reported that under the lockdown order, authorities have restricted the free movement of people living in the area, all businesses except shops selling food and medicine have been closed, public transport has been banned, and pillion riding is no longer allowed.
Earlier, on Friday, National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) informed that Pakistan reported 515 new COVID-19 cases and six new deaths.

Death toll in Pak’s Quetta blast rises to six, Imran Khan government slammed

Pakistan PM Imran Khan

Quetta [Pakistan]: The death toll in Pakistan’s Quetta blast has climbed to six as two injured succumbed to their injuries on Friday, local media reported.

The explosion took place on Thursday night at the gate of Science College in Quetta when workers and leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-I) were returning from the college auditorium at the end of the Shuhada Conference. Earlier, four people were killed and 16 others injured in the blast.
“Another two workers (of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Ideological) lost their lives. They had received multiple injuries in the explosion,” Dawn quoted Maulana Abdul Sattar Chishti, provincial information secretary of the party as saying. The deceased were identified as Sanaullah and Mohammed Ramzan.

Chishti said that the condition of some other injured persons was critical.

“Thirteen injured are still under treatment in the civil hospital,” Dawn quoted a police statement.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but the Counter-Terrorism Department has lodged a case against unknown people.

China bans footballers from getting tattoos to set ‘good example for society’


Beijing [China]: With the aim to set a “good example for society,” China has banned footballers from getting tattoos and ordered those with existing ones to remove or cover them.

This directive, issued by the General Administration of Sport of China (GAS), explains disciplinary requirements for national team players, CNN reported.
The order issued earlier this week is named “Suggestions for strengthening the management of football players”. It says that “Athletes of the national team and U23 national team are strictly prohibited from having new tattoos.”

“Those who have tattoos are advised to remove tattoos by themselves. In cases of special circumstances, tattoos must be covered during training and competition after the consent of the team,” the directive states.

According to the directive, national teams at Under-20 levels are forbidden from recruiting new athletes with tattoos,”

The GAS statement says that this measure “fully demonstrates the positive spirit of Chinese football players and set a good example for society.”

It further adds that national teams should organize activities that “strengthen the patriotic education” of athletes to “enhance the sense of mission, responsibility and honour, and create a national team capable of conquering and fighting well and with excellent style of play.”

Similarly in 2018, the media regulator in China had issued an edict saying Chinese television “should not feature actors with tattoos.”

China blames US for bringing serious humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

Beijing [China]: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the irresponsible withdrawal by the United States from Afghanistan has brought a serious humanitarian crisis to the Afghan people and enormous security challenges to regional stability.
“The entire world witnessed the Kabul Moment, when the US forces left Afghanistan in a rush. Such irresponsible withdrawal has brought a serious humanitarian crisis to the Afghan people and enormous security challenges to regional stability,” Wang Yi said. In his interview, China’s Foreign Minister said that China supports Afghanistan in building an inclusive government, ending turbulence, restoring stability and rebuilding the country so that the Afghan people will be able to enjoy the benefits of peace and tranquillity supplies.
On hotspot issues such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, China has stayed in close coordination with countries in the region to jointly safeguard stability in this part of the world, according to China’s state councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s interview to Xinhua News Agency.
In 2021, the entire world witnessed the Kabul Moment, when the US forces left Afghanistan in a rush. The scenes of chaos and even shocking brutality at Kabul airport will stay in the memory of humanity forever as a historic mark on the failure of the so-called “democratic transformation”, according to State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi interview to Xinhua News Agency and China Media Group.
Further, he mentioned that China has actively facilitated international coordination and played a constructive role in a stable transition of the Afghanistan situation.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Afghanistan still faces serious challenges in the economy, people’s livelihoods, security and governance.
“The Afghan people have suffered from years of war and turmoil, and should not have to endure the ravages of the pandemic, hunger and cold and winterization. Facing the sudden changes in Afghanistan, China did not sit by, but extended a helping hand,” he said.
“We immediately reached out to the Afghan people with emergency humanitarian assistance, especially vaccines and food,” he added.

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