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Pakistani opposition party leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi detained

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(Last Updated On: August 20, 2023)

Pakistani opposition leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi was detained on Saturday, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said, just hours after he said it would challenge any delay to the country’s election in the courts.

Party spokesman Zulfi Bukhari told Reuters the specific reason for the detention of Qureshi, twice Pakistan’s foreign minister, was not immediately clear. The caretaker information minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bukhari condemned the arrest on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, saying he was “arrested for doing a press conference and re affirming PTI stance against all tyranny and pre poll rigging that is going on currently in Pakistan”.

PTI party chairman Imran Khan is currently jailed for three years after being convicted on graft charges and is barred from contesting any election for five years. He denies any wrongdoing. Khan won the last election in 2018 and became prime minister until he was ousted in a no-confidence vote in 2022.

The election is meant to be held within 90 days of parliament being dissolved last week, by November, but uncertainty looms over the date as the nation grapples with constitutional, political and economic crises.

The outgoing government approved a new census in its final days, meaning new electoral boundaries must be drawn up by the Election Commission.

The exercise of drawing fresh boundaries for hundreds of federal and provincial constituencies in a country of 241 million people may take six months or more, according to a former commission official.

The election commission said on Thursday that new constituencies would be finalized by Dec. 14, state television reported. After that, the commission will confirm an election date.

Electoral experts have suggested that process could see the nationwide vote pushed back several months, possibly until February.

“It will be unconstitutional if the 90 days deadline is breached,” Qureshi, who is leading the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, following Khan’s arrest, told the press conference.

He said the party planned to contest any delay at the Supreme Court.

Political analysts say that if the current caretaker set-up stretches beyond its constitutional tenure, a prolonged period without an elected government would allow the military, which ruled the country directly for more than three decades of its 76-year existence, to consolidate control.

Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, a little-known politician who is believed to be close to the military, was sworn in as prime minister on Monday.

Caretakers are usually limited to overseeing elections, but Kakar’s set-up is the most empowered in Pakistan’s history thanks to legislation that allows it to make policy decisions on economic matters.

The move is ostensibly aimed at keeping on track a nine-month $3 billion International Monetary Fund bailout secured in June. At least one of three programme reviews falls during the caretaker period, and more if elections are delayed.

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Putin arrives in China to deepen strategic partnership with Xi

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(Last Updated On: May 16, 2024)

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing early on Thursday for talks with Xi Jinping that the Kremlin hopes will deepen a strategic partnership between the two most powerful geopolitical rivals of the United States, Reuters reported.

China and Russia declared a “no limits” partnership in February 2022 when Putin visited Beijing just days before he sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, triggering the deadliest land war in Europe since World War Two.

By picking China for his first foreign trip since being sworn in for a six-year term that will keep him in power until at least 2030, Putin is sending a message to the world about his priorities and the depth of his personal relationship with Xi.

In an interview with China’s Xinhua news agency, Putin praised Xi for helping to build a “strategic partnership” with Russia based on national interests and deep mutual trust.

“It was the unprecedentedly high level of the strategic partnership between our countries that determined my choice of China as the first state that I would visit after officially taking office as president of the Russian Federation,” Putin said.

“We will try to establish closer cooperation in the field of industry and high technology, space and peaceful nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, renewable energy sources and other innovative sectors,” Putin said.

Putin, 71, and Xi, 70, will take part in a gala evening celebrating 75 years since the Soviet Union recognised the People’s Republic of China, which was declared by Mao Zedong in 1949, read the report.

Xinhua confirmed his arrival for what China’s state press has described as a state visit from an “old friend”.

Putin’s arrival and visit is the top trending item on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, with 1.4 million search requests amid a stream of images, videos and comments.

The United States casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat while U.S. President Joe Biden argues that this century will be defined by an existential contest between democracies and autocracies.

Putin and Xi share a broad world view, which sees the West as decadent and in decline just as China challenges U.S. supremacy in everything from quantum computing and synthetic biology to espionage and hard military power.

Putin will also visit Harbin in northeastern China, a city with historic ties to Russia. A mall devoted to Russian-made goods representing some 80 Russian manufacturers opened on Thursday, the China Daily reported.

XI AND PUTIN

China has strengthened its trade and military ties with Russia in recent years as the United States and its allies imposed sanctions against both countries, particularly against Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The West says China has played a crucial role in helping Russia withstand the sanctions and has supplied key technology which Russia has used on the battlefield in Ukraine.

But China, once the junior partner of Moscow in the global Communist hierarchy, remains by far the most powerful of Russia’s friends in the world.

Putin’s arrival follows a mission to Beijing late last month by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in part to warn China’s top diplomat Wang Yi against deepening military support for Russia.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said that the two leaders would hold informal talks on Thursday evening over tea and that they would touch on Ukraine, Asia, energy and trade.

Putin’s newly appointed defence minister, Andrei Belousov, as well as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu and foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, will also attend, along with Russia’s most powerful CEOs.

It was not immediately clear if Gazprom (GAZP.MM), opens new tab CEO Alexei Miller would go to China as he was on a working visit to Iran on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

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World Court to hold hearings over Israel’s Rafah attacks

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2024)

The U.N.’s International Court of Justice will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday to discuss new emergency measures sought by South Africa over Israel’s attacks on Rafah during the war in Gaza, the court said Tuesday.

The measures form part of an ongoing case South Africa filed at the ICJ in December last year accusing Israel of violating the Genocide Convention during its offensive against Palestinians in Gaza, Reuters reported.

Israel has previously said it is acting in accordance with international law and has called the genocide case baseless and accused Pretoria of acting as “the legal arm” of Gaza’s ruling Hamas militants.

South Africa will address the court on Thursday after it asked the ICJ, also known as the World Court, last week to order Israel to cease its Rafah offensive and allow unimpeded access to Gaza for U.N. officials, organisations providing humanitarian aid, and journalists and investigators.

Israel will present its side of the case on Friday, according to the court schedule.

The war has killed nearly 35,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities there. About 1,200 people were killed in Israel and 253 taken hostage on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched the attack that started the war, according Israeli tallies.

The hearings in The Hague will only focus on issuing emergency measures, to keep the dispute from escalating, before the court can rule on the merits of the case, which usually takes years. While the ICJ’s rulings are binding and without appeal, the court has no way to enforce them, read the report.

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UN says Gaza death toll still over 35,000 but not all bodies identified

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(Last Updated On: May 14, 2024)

The death toll in the Gaza Strip from the Israel-Hamas war is still more than 35,000, but the enclave’s Ministry of Health has updated its breakdown of the fatalities, the United Nations said on Monday after Israel questioned a sudden change in numbers, Reuters reported.

U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said the ministry’s figures – cited regularly by the U.N. its reporting on the seven-month-long conflict – now reflected a breakdown of the 24,686 deaths of “people who have been fully identified.”

“There’s about another 10,000 plus bodies who still have to be fully identified, and so then the details of those – which of those are children, which of those are women – that will be re-established once the full identification process is complete,” Haq told reporters in New York.

Israel last week questioned why the figures for the deaths of women and children has suddenly halved, read the report.

Haq said those figures were for identified bodies – 7,797 children, 4,959 women, 1,924 elderly, and 10,006 men – adding: “The Ministry of Health says that the documentation process of fully identifying details of the casualties is ongoing.”

Oren Marmorstein, spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Monday accused Palestinian militants Hamas of manipulating the numbers, saying: “They are not accurate and they do not reflect the reality on the ground.”

“The parroting of Hamas’ propaganda messages without the use of any verification process has proven time and again to be methodologically flawed and unprofessional,” he said in a social media post.

Haq said U.N. teams in Gaza were not able to independently verify the Gaza Ministry of Health (MoH) figures given the ongoing war and sheer number of fatalities.

“Unfortunately we have the sad experience of coordinating with the Ministry of Health on casualty figures every few years for large mass casualty incidents in Gaza, and in past times their figures have proven to be generally accurate,” Haq said.

The World Health Organization “has a long-standing cooperation with the MoH in Gaza and we can attest that MoH has good capacity in data collection/analysis and its previous reporting has been considered credible,” said WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris.

“Real numbers could be even higher,” she said.

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