NEW YORK | ACCRA – Compassion was not in the hearts of Ghana’s religious leaders for two detainees flown to freedom this month (January) after 14 years in Guantanamo prison behind bars.

The Rev. Joseph Osei  Bonsu, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference, scolded President John Dramani Mahama, saying the two Yemeni ex-detainees did not deserve any compassion from Ghanaians.

- Photo: 2020

Tensions Dominate India’s Ties with Pakistan, Nepal & Sri Lanka

News briefs compiled by Suresh Jaura*

TORONTO | NEW DELHI (IDN) – Environmental degradation and climate change, US report on religious freedom, sex scandal, Covid-19, and cyber harassment in Pakistan are some issues the Indian news media has been highlighting in the first two weeks of June. These and many more are linked to India. The subcontinent’s ties with Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka also draw the focus.

World Bank to provide $188 million to Pakistan to address environmental degradation, climate change

The World Bank pledged to provide USD 188 million to Pakistan to address the risks relating to environmental degradation, deforestation and climate change in the country, PTI reported in WION NEWS on June 2.

The global lender said it would provide funding and technical support for disaster resilience and ecosystem restoration initiatives through more reliable and timely weather forecasting, and achieving green growth targets, the ministry of climate change said in a statement.

World Bank’s Country Director Illango Patchamuthu said that the new initiative will take Pakistan’s climate-resilience and disaster management capabilities to a new height through the furtherance of bilateral relations between the government of Pakistan and the World Bank.

US report on religious freedom blames Pakistan for the targeted killing of minorities

An annual American report on religious freedom has voiced concern over the targeted killing in Pakistan of Shia Muslims, including ethnic Hazaras, who are largely Shia, and Ahmadi Muslims in attacks believed to be driven by faith, reported ANI in WION NEWS on June 11.

The US ”2019 International Religious Freedom Report” that documents major instances of the violation of religious freedom across the world, released by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department, said human rights activists reported numerous instances of societal violence related to allegations of blasphemy; of efforts by individuals to coerce religious minorities to convert to Islam; and of societal harassment, discrimination, and threats of violence directed at members of religious minority communities.

The report says “There also continued to be reports of attacks on holy places, cemeteries, and religious symbols of Hindu, Christian, and Ahmadiyya minorities.”

India concerned with harassment of Hindus in Pakistan

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had earlier raised the matter and called the demolition of Hindu homes as illegal and inhumane, wrote Sidhant Sibal in WION NEWS on June 9.

India has expressed its concern over harassment of Hindus in Pakistan and raised the matter with the country. In a strongly-worded demarche sent to Pakistani high commission in Delhi, India raised the “systematic and targeted demolition” of houses belonging to minority Hindu community in Chak 52/DB, Yazman of Bahawalpur district in Punjab in Pakistan.

New Delhi “strongly condemned” the incident involving the “state authorities” targetting the minority Hindu community despite the occupants producing valid documents of ownership and legal relief granted against demolition.

Decoding the sex scandal that has rocked politics in Pakistan

Pakistan is in the middle of a sex scandal and three of its Opposition leaders, including a former prime minister have come under scanner reported WION NEWS on June 8. 

Cynthia Ritchie, an Islamabad-based US blogger has made allegations of sexual assault against three leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)

Ritchie has made the allegations during a Facebook Live session. She said that she was raped by then home minister Rehman Malik in 2011, saying that the incident took place at his residence where her drink was drugged.

Live with the virus: Pakistan PM says after lockdown gamble; COVID-19 cases surge

Four weeks ago, with its most important festival coming up and millions of people facing starvation as economic activity dwindled, Pakistan lifted a two-month-long coronavirus lockdown, WION NEWS reported quoting Reuters on June 5.  

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said despite rising infections and deaths, the country would need to learn to “live with” the virus to avert pushing tens of millions living on daily wages into destitution.

Now, a Reuters review of government data shows over 20,000 cases of the virus were identified in the three weeks before the lockdown was lifted, and more than double that figure were identified in the three weeks since.

Pakistan registers 189% increase in cyber-harassment complaints during COVID-19 lockdown

A Pakistani rights body said it registered 189 per cent increase in cyber-harassment complaints during the countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Digital Rights Foundation said the complaints were registered with its Cyber Harassment Helpline, PTI reported in WION NEWS on June 3.

The helpline reported a combined 136 complaints of cyber harassment in March and April during the lockdown compared to 47 such complaints, an increase of 189 per cent, before the lockdown in January and February.

Pak army claims to shoot down ‘Indian spying quadcopter’ along LoC

The Pakistan Army claimed to have shot down an “Indian spying quadcopter” allegedly intruding across the Line of Control (LoC). Military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar said that the mini copter violated the country’s airspace in Khanjar sector of the LoC., said PTI report in WION News on June 6.

“The quadcopter had intruded 500 metres on Pakistan’s side of the LoC,” he said in a statement.

The spokesman claimed that it was the eighth Indian quadcopter to be shot down by the Pakistan Army troops this year.

1,000 JeM and LeT terrorists among 6,500 Pak fighters in Afghanistan: UN report

A United Nations report has said that about 6,500 Pakistanis as foreign terrorist fighters are present in Afghanistan including 1,000 belonging to Pakistan based terror groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, wrote Sidhant Sibal in WION NEWS on June 2.

Most of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters are co-located with Taliban fighters and are hand in glove with them, the report said.

The UN monitoring team in its annual technical update to United Nations Security Council said, “The number of foreign terrorist fighters in search of a purpose and livelihood in Afghanistan, including up to 6,500 Pakistanis, will render this a complex challenge, which will require careful monitoring”.

Kabul denounces Pakistan’s accusations of TTP using Afghan soil to destabilise the region

Kabul has rejected the allegations by Pakistan foreign ministry about Tehreek-e-Pakistan (TTP) using Afghan territories by a third party to destabilise regional countries, including Pakistan, ANI reported in WION NEWS on June 6.

Afghanistan is also currently pursuing a peace process where we need determined and far-sighted cooperation of all our regional and international partners.

“TTP and its splinter groups have the blood of the Afghan people on their hands and are designated as terrorist organisations in the National Threat Assessment and National Security Policy of Afghanistan,” the Afghan foreign ministry replied to the accusations made by the foreign ministry of Pakistan in a statement.

India and Nepal Now! A practical solution to border disputes

If India and Nepal can successfully work out a condominium arrangement to resolve their current border dispute, India can further think of exploring a similar solution with China and Pakistan. In the post coronavirus world the human beings have to learn to protect themselves more from extra-human threats than worry about protecting artificial and alterable borders from each other, wrote  Abhay Jain and Sandeep Pandey in CounterCurrents on June 13.

Unable to resolve its border disputes with Pakistan and China, India has now managed to create a dispute with Nepal in the process of building a road to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet through areas which are claimed by Nepal.

History has taught us that such disputes will require disproportionate attention and resources and will remain a bone of contention over long period, sometimes erupting in wars costing immense human suffering and lives, keeping our relationship with neighbours if not bitter, at least not such that we can trust each other.

Nepal PM miffed by the presence of Indian forces in Kalapani, remarks by UP CM and COVID-19

Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on June 17 spoke on India, this time on the presence of Indian forces in Kalapani, comments by Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP) Yogi Adityanath on his country and increased influx of COVID-19 infection from the southern neighbour, wrote Sidhant Sibal in WION NEWS on June 9.

Nepal considers Kalapani as its territory along with Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura and last month issued a new map showing the Indian territories as its own drawing New Delhi’s ire. 

Speaking in the Nepali Parliament, PM Oli said, “The territory has been separated from us by the stationing of Indian forces and due to Indian Army’s deployment, access is being denied to us.”

Sri Lanka holds mock poll to test COVID-19 guidelines for the parliamentary election

Sri Lanka’s election commission has held a mock poll in the southern Galle district to test the COVID-19 health guidelines and its preparedness for the parliamentary polls likely to be held between late July and mid-August, PTI reported in WION NEWS on June 7.

The selected voters were given instructions at their homes and were asked to bring along a pen to mark the vote while wearing a face mask.

The parliamentary polls were initially to be held on April 25, but had to be postponed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which prompted the authorities to announce a nationwide lockdown from March 20.

Sri Lanka to reopen for tourism in August, with multiple coronavirus tests

Sri Lanka’s virus-battered tourism industry can reopen for foreign guests from August but under strict guidelines, including multiple coronavirus tests during their stay, officials said, AFP reported in WION NEWS on June 6..

Tourism was only just recovering from the effects of last year’s Easter Sunday bombings that killed 279 people, including 45 foreigners, when the virus halted international travel to the island and forced hotels to shut, leaving tens of thousands of people jobless.

Sri Lanka’s tourism ministry said travellers will be able to visit from August 1, but they must carry a COVID-19 free certificate issued not earlier than 72 hours before boarding.

What waits for Rohingyas?

Rohingya people, who have no identity of their own, are now facing another danger. Pandemic COVID-19 took away one of the Rohingya, who took shelter at a camp at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on the wake of genocide in their own land in Myanmar wrote Saifur Rahman Saif in CounterCurrents on June 3.

United News of Bangladesh reported that the man died from coronavirus infection while undergoing treatment at the isolation centre at Ukhiya camp in Cox’s Bazar on June 1 night.

Referring to Abu Toha MRH Bhuiyan, who works as a health coordinator at the Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, the news agency stated that the deceased could not be identified immediately but he was a 71-year-old man. [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 June 2020].

* Publisher and Managing Director of South Asian Outlook and Indo-Canada Outlook, which have meanwhile merged with IDN.

Photo: The evening flag-lowering ceremony at the India-Pakistan International Border near Wagah. (August 2007) Source: CC BY-SA 3.0

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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