Sunday, September 20, 2020

FATF must blacklist Pakistan for promoting religious extremism and drug smuggling: Free Balochistan Movement

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Quetta [Pakistan], September 20 (ANI): The Free Balochistan Movement (FBM) spokesperson Gamshaad Baloch said in a statement that Pakistan is still vigorously promoting religious extremism in occupied Balochistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said that on September 13, the religious foot soldier
s of the Pakistan army, Sabah-e-Sahaba, armed with machine guns, attacked the peaceful protesting camp of Voice for Missing Persons of Sindhi & Baloch missing persons in Karachi in which several men and women were injured. The videos and photos of this attack, now viral on social media, show that fanatics members of Sipah e Sahaba, the armed wing of Jamaat-e-Islami were brazenly attacking the secular Baloch and Sindhi human rights activists whose loved ones disappeared.

FBM spokesperson said that just eight days ago on September 12, Jamaat-e-Islami, the mother organisation of all religious extremism forces across the world, held a rally in Karachi in which sectarian slogans were raised against another religious sect of Islam! It showed that Pakistan didn't abandon its policy of promoting religious extremism in the region to advance its deep state agenda of Punjab's monopoly over resources of Baloch, Sindhis, and Pashtun nations.

FBM spokesperson urged the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that it must not overlook the current wave of religious violence Pakistan has unleashed against the peaceful secular people of Balochistan Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

If the past is a guide, then the country study of Pakistan shows that it will never heed to guidelines and warnings. Therefore the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) must immediately put Pakistan on the blacklist because it adopted religious extremism as a state policy to promote its vested in interests in South Asia.

Furthermore, Free Balochistan Movement (FBM) spokesperson urged FATF to look into the facts that why Pakistan has failed to deliver as a responsible member state of the United Nations in terms of promotion of peace and prosperity in South Asia?

It has internally subjugated Baloch Sindhi and Pashtun people to abject poverty and externally it has wreaked havoc in Afghanistan and India and above all, it has proliferated nuclear technology to rogue states like Iran, North Korea, and Libya, besides promoting its stockpile of dirty tactical weapons. Today these rogue states have become the deadliest countries for world peace.

Pakistani militia forces, locally known as Frontier Corps (FC) has turned the Balochistan coast & Southern Afghanistan border near Baramcha into opium trade corridors, and from these drugs corridors it is smuggling opium to Africa, Europe, and America, Gamshaad Baloch said.

He further maintained that Pakistan Army & ISI are earning billions of dollars through drug smuggling. Unfortunately, the international community and the FATF are overlooking this source of black money because Pakistan has deceptively termed drugs smuggling money as remittances it receives from its overseas citizens from Europe America and the Gulf States.' (ANI)

Families of 12 detained activists approach Hong Kong police, to push for contact with loved ones

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Hong Kong, September 20 (ANI): The family members of 12 Hong Kong human rights activists captured at sea last month by the Chinese authorities reported the case to Hong Kong police on Sunday, urging the force to speak to their mainland counterparts for the release of marine data from that day, reported the South China Morning Post.

The families said that the officials need to get in touch directly with the 12 "as many questions remain unanswered" including the reason the mainland (Chinese authorities) refused to allow family-appointed lawyers to meet with the captured at the detention centre in Shenzhen's Yantian district.

The 12 -- who were attempting to flee to Taiwan -- were linked to the protest cases last year. One of the protests, Andy Li was arrested by the police under the draconian law passed by the Chinese Communist Party.

"Up till now, the lawyers appointed by the families have not been allowed to meet with the detainees. In other words, the conditions of the arrested persons are still known only to the Chinese authorities," said a statement from the families read by activist Owen Chow Ka-shing, who has been assisting them.

"The Hong Kong government has only used official information from China, becoming a willing mouthpiece of the Chinese government, and has never provided any details or sent anyone there to clarify the doubts."

According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong security minister John Lee Ka-chiu told a local broadcaster that the 12 Hong Kongers had appointed lawyers from a list "approved by the mainland authorities". He also said that the detained Hong Kongers were in good health "even though no local officials visited them".

South China Morning Post also reported that the families had urged the Hong Kong government to meet with the detainees or at least speak to them telephonically.

The Chinese foreign ministry in a statement had confirmed that the group comprised 11 men and a woman, aged 16 to 33 have been detained while they were trying to escape China.

Since the enactment of draconian law, several pro-democracy activists have been fleeing for a safe haven to other countries.

Beijing had imposed the National Security Law in Hong Kong in June targeting acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison for the most serious offences.

The move came after months of social upheaval triggered by opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill but that morphed into wider demands, including universal suffrage.

The legislation, which came into effect on July 1, punishes what Beijing terms secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference with punishment ranging up to a life-term in prison. (ANI)

Nepal ruling party secretariat meeting discuss possible cabinet reshuffle

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Kathmandu [Nepal], September 20 (ANI): A meeting of the ruling Nepal Communist Party on Sunday discussed a possible reshuffle in the cabinet, a spokesperson for the party confirmed.

The meeting which commenced at Parisdanda for the first time since the unification of the then Communist Party of Nepa
l- Unified Marxist Leninist and CPN- Maoist Center dealt about possible switches on board, Narayan Kaji Shrestha said.

"The discussion about the cabinet reshuffle was made in today's meeting. The final decisions about restructuring the council of ministers will be made on the basis of the decisions made by the party's standing committee meeting," Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the Spokesperson for the party confirmed.

There was no discussion over the possible names of the incoming and outgoing ministers from the incumbent cabinet.

Another round of the Secretariat meeting has been summoned for 1 PM (Local Time) on Monday.

It also is expected to dwell on the appointments to vacant seats at constitutional organs as well as completing the remaining tasks of party unification. (ANI)

NCB SIT summons Jaya Shah, Shruti Modi in Sushant Singh Rajput death case

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Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], September 20 (ANI): The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Special Investigation Team (SIT) has summoned Jaya Shah and Shruti Modi, former business managers of actor Sushant Singh Rajput to join the investigation on Monday in connection with the death case of the actor.

viously, NCB had detained five persons in connection with three separate drug busts, one of which is linked with the drugs case related to the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, NCB official said on September 18.

According to the NCB official, one person named Rahil Vishram was detailed on Thursday with 1 kg fine Charas from Himachal Pradesh, which is of high grade and value in the black market, and Rs 4.5 lakh cash was seized from him.

Rahil Vishram is directly connected to the other peddlers accused in the drug case related to the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the official said.

The NCB had launched an investigation after it received official communication from the ED, in which there were various chats related to drug consumption, procurement, usage, and transportation in connection with the Sushant Singh Rajput case.

The ED had on July 31 registered an Enforcement Case Information Report in the late actor's death case after a First Information Report was filed by Rajput's father KK Singh against Rhea Chakraborty in Bihar on July 28.

Rajput was found dead at his Mumbai residence on June 14. (ANI)

Fedral judge temporarily blocks US WeChat ban

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Washington [US], September 20 (ANI): A federal judge has temporarily blocked the US government's attempt to ban the Chinese messaging and payments app WeChat in the United States.

According to CNN, Judge Laurel Beeler wrote that the plaintiffs had shown "serious questions" in their claim that the ex
ecutive order passed by Trump in August threatens a user's First Amendment (of the US Constitution) rights, which guarantees free speech.

"The plaintiffs' evidence reflects that WeChat is effectively the only means of communication for many in the community, not only because China bans other apps, but also because Chinese speakers with limited English proficiency have no options other than WeChat," CNN reported quoting Beeler.

Stating that nor does the order escape First Amendment scrutiny, the judge said the ban on WeChat does not provide enough evidence that it is narrowly tailored to resolve the national security concerns raised by the US government with respect to the app.

"And, as the plaintiffs point out, she wrote, "there are obvious alternatives to a complete ban, such as barring WeChat from government devices, as Australia has done, or taking other steps to address data security."

However, the US Department of Commerce on Friday in a statement said, "In response to President Trump's Executive Orders signed August 6, 2020, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) today announced prohibitions on transactions relating to mobile applications (apps) WeChat and TikTok to safeguard the national security of the United States."

"While the threats posed by WeChat and TikTok are not identical, they are similar. Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories. Each is an active participant in China's civil-military fusion and is subject to mandatory cooperation with the intelligence services of the CCP," it added.

This comes after US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he has approved the purchase of TikTok, a video-sharing app owned by Chinese company ByteDance, to US software company Oracle, with the possible participation of Walmart.

Trump has accused TikTok and WeChat, another social media app that White House officials said will be shut down this Sunday, of being tools of the Chinese Communist Party, which Washington says is bent on stealing the personal data of the US users. (ANI)

Nigerian drug peddler held with cocaine at New Delhi Railway Station

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New Delhi [India], September 20 (ANI): The Delhi Police has arrested an interstate Nigerian drug peddler and seized 250 grams of cocaine from his possession at New Delhi Railway Station.

According to police, the accused has been identified as Victor Kaine (35), who came to India two years back on business Visa.

"On September 19, 2020, a police team on patrolling duty to keep watch on the passengers and commuters inside and outside New Delhi Railway Station noticed accused standing in suspicious condition near Taxi Stand. Finding police team nearby, he started walking fast but the team chased him and apprehended," the police said.

On asking to produce identity credentials and passport, he showed the photocopy of his visa which had expired in the month of August 2020. On Checking his bag, a pouch containing powder was found. On checking with the Narcotics Detection Kit, it was found to be cocaine weighing 250 grams, police added.

Kaine stayed in Trichy, Tamil Nadu and later on shifted to Bengaluru. He had been visiting Delhi frequently and supplying cocaine through local contacts in the rave parties organised in the farmhouses in Delhi-NCR.

"Further raids have been on to catch the other associates in the drug racket in Delhi and Bengaluru," police said.

A case under section 21 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) and 14 Foreigners Act has been registered at Police Station, New Delhi Railway Station. (ANI)

PIL in SC seeking uniform ground of succession, inheritance

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New Delhi [India], September 20 (ANI): A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking removal of anomalies in the ground of succession and inheritance and make them gender-neutral, religion-neutral, and uniform for all citizens.

The petition stated that the Centre has
 failed to provide even gender-neutral and religion-neutral uniform grounds of succession and inheritance for all citizens in the spirit of the Articles 14, 15, 21, 44, and international conventions.

The plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay stated, "Uniformity in succession and inheritance is not only necessary to secure gender justice, gender equality and dignity of women but also essential to promote fraternity, unity and national integration, but, Centre has not taken any steps in this regard till date. Therefore, a blatant form of discrimination that is the prejudice in the succession and inheritance based on gender and religion is continuing."

The plea sought to declare that the discriminatory grounds of succession and inheritance are a violation of Articles 14, 15, 21 of the Constitution and frame gender-neutral, religion-neutral, uniform guidelines of succession and inheritance for all Indian citizens.

It asked that the Law Commission of India to examine the laws relating to succession and inheritance of the developed countries and International Conventions in this regard and prepare a report on 'uniform grounds of succession and inheritance' for all citizens in the spirit of Articles 14, 15, 21, 44 of the Constitution within three months.

"The injury caused to the citizens is extremely large because gender-biased and religion biased personal laws relating to succession and inheritance are not only against the constitutional ethos of gender justice and gender equality, guaranteed under Articles 14-15 but also against the dignity of women, which is an important element of right life to life and liberty, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution," the PIL further said. (ANI)

PCB tests 125 individuals for COVID-19 ahead of National T20 Cup

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Lahore [Pakistan], September 20 (ANI): The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Sunday informed that a total of 125 players and support personnel belonging to six Cricket Association Second XI squads were tested for COVID-19 ahead of the upcoming National T20 Cup.

"They will undergo their second tests on
 September 21 under the supervision of the PCB medical team at their respective central stations, which are Lahore's Hotel PC for Central Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Northern and Southern Punjab, and Muridke Country Club for Balochistan and Sindh," PCB said in a release.

On Thursday, 103 players and support personnel belonging to six Cricket Association First XI squads were tested for COVID-19.

Cricketers, who travelled to England with the men's national cricket team, are required to submit the results of their first COVID-19 tests on September 22 to the PCB Medical and Sports Sciences Department. (ANI)

Police in Belarusian city of Brest use tear gas against illegal protesters

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Minsk [Belarus], September 20 (ANI/Sputnik): Law enforcement officers in the Belarusian city of Brest have used tear gas against opposition protesters who were taking part in an unsanctioned rally on Sunday, Olga Chemodanova, spokeswoman for the Belarusian Interior Ministry, told Sputnik.

Earlier in the day, a Belarusian opposition Telegram channel published a video from Brest, claiming to show security forces personnel moving towards a group of protesters. One officer appears to pull out an object resembling a can before spraying it in the face of protesters as arrests were made.

"We can confirm that in Brest, law enforcement officers used tear gas to suppress the illegal activities of protesters. Some citizens were detained and now an investigation is underway. These people violated laws concerning mass events and they did not obey the lawful demands of the police," the spokeswoman said.

Chemodanova, who said earlier in the day that at least 10 people have been detained in Minsk so far on Sunday, could not confirm the exact number of people across the country who have been arrested during the latest day of public unrest.

The Interior Ministry spokeswoman was also unable to confirm whether riot police officers in Brest fired warning shots in the air to disperse protesters after an opposition Telegram channel published a video appearing to show demonstrators fleeing after a sound similar to a pump-action shotgun is heard.

Opposition protests have been held regularly in Minsk and other Belarusian cities following the August 9 presidential election, which resulted in Alexander Lukashenko winning by a landslide to secure a sixth term in office. The country's opposition leaders have refused to recognise the results of the vote. (ANI/Sputnik)

England imposes up to 10,000 pounds for violating COVID-19 rules

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (File Pic)

London [UK], September 20 (ANI): Those found violating Covid-19 restrictions by refusing to self isolate could face a fine up to 10,000 British pounds (USD 13,000) under new regulations imposed in the UK in the wake of a surge in new coronavirus infections.

The rules are set to apply from September 28 for anyone in England testing positive for Covid-19 or is notified by public health workers that they have been in contact "with someone infectious", the Al Jazeera reported.

"People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Saturday (local time).

Fines would range from 1,000 pounds for the first offence and would rise to 10,000 pounds for offenders or cases where employers would threaten to sack staff who self isolate rather than going to work, Al Jazeera reported further adding that some "low-income" workers who would incur a loss in earnigs, would recive a support payment of 500 pounds along with benefits such as sick pay, "to which they may be entitled.

"While most people are doing their absolute level best to comply with the rules, I don't want to see a situation where people don't feel they are financially able to self-isolate," Johnson said further.

The United Kingdom is currently experiencing the start of the COVID-19 pandemic's second wave, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.

"We are now seeing a second wave coming in. We have seen in France, we have seen in Spain ... it's been inevitable that we would see it in this country," Johnson told reporters.

The prime minister also hinted that the social distancing measures currently in force in the UK could be strengthened to curb the spread of the disease.

"I don't think anybody wants to go into a second lockdown but clearly, when you look at what is happening, you've got to wonder whether we need to go further than the 'rule of six' that we brought in on Monday," Johnson remarked, referring to the current ban on social gatherings of more than six people.

The total UK coronavirus death toll is at over 41,700. On Saturday, the UK reported more than 4,400 new cases - the highest daily total since the start of May, as reported by Sputnik. (ANI)

'I am also a farmer': Rajnath Singh hits out at Opposition, condemns unruly behaviour in Parliament

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Sunday.

New Delhi [India], September 20 (ANI): Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday condemned the unruly behaviour of some Opposition MPs during the debates on the farm bills in Rajya Sabha and termed the incident as unfortunate and shameful.

"I am also a farmer and was the agriculture minister and I ca
n never believe that the government of which we are part of will take any step against the interest of the farmers. What happened is against the decorum of House," the Union minister said addressing the media shortly after two bills were passed amid unprecedented uproar by the opposition.

Rajnath Singh said that attempts are being made to mislead the farmers on the basis of rumours and assured that the government will not end the system of Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Agricultural Produce Market Committee (AMPC) Act.

"When the discussion was taking in Rajya Sabha over two agriculture bills, it was saddening, unfortunate and shameful. I know that it is the responsibility of the ruling side to run the House smoothly. The support of the Opposition is also expected. The confusion was created among farmers for their vested interests. It is not good for healthy democratic values," the Defence Minister said.

Around 100 opposition MPs have also filed a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh after he overruled opposition pleas for postponing Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar's reply to the debate on the two farm bills till Monday since the sitting time scheduled of the House was over.

The Defence minister said: "Everyone saw misbehaviour with the Chair, members tore rule book, climbed podium. I have never seen such misconduct in Parliament. It is condemnable. As far as I know, this has never happened in the history of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. This happening in Rajya Sabha is an even bigger matter. Attempts are being made to mislead the farmers on the basis of rumours," he added.

The Rajya Sabha witnessed unruly scenes after opposition MPs, rushed into the Well of the House after their demands for proper voting by Division was denied. An attempt was made to snatch the mike at the Chairman's podium. The rule book was also shown to Deputy Chairman Harivansh from the well of the House by an opposition member.

Rajnath Singh had earlier today called the bills historic for the agriculture sector and said it will help in increasing the income of farmers.

"Both these two bills are historic for farmers and agriculture. By implementing it, we will be able to increase the income of farmers. Rumours are being peddled that MSP and APMC will be ended. Farmers will now be able to sell their produce anywhere. The government is not ending MSP and APMC," the Defence Minister said.

Responding to a question on the notice against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh by Opposition parties, Singh said: "Notice has been given to the Chairman. A decision will be taken by him. I don't want to say anything politically. This is the prerogative of the Chairman."

"There are some political reasons behind every such decision. I don't want to comment on why did she take this decision," Singh said while responding to a query on the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal from Union Cabinet.

Earlier the Defence Minister had termed the passage of the two farm bills in Parliament as a "landmark day" for India's agriculture sector and farmers.

"With the passing of two landmark agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha today, India has cemented the strong foundation for 'Atmanirbhar Agriculture'," the Defence Minister tweeted.

"This is the result of endless dedication and determination of the Govt under the leadership of PM Shri @narendramodi," he added. (ANI)

COVID-19: Second round of countrywide serosurvey completed, final plase underway, says ICMR

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New Delhi [India], September 20 (ANI): The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Sunday informed that second round of the countrywide serosurvey for COVID-19 has been successfully completed and the final phase analysis of the survey is now underway.

"The second round of countrywide serosurvey
 led by ICMR has been successfully completed. The final phase analysis of the survey is now underway and will offer a comparison with the results of the first survey #IndiaFightsCOVID19," the ICMR said in a tweet.

According to the Council, the containment zones, that refer to a specific geographical area where positive cases of coronavirus are found are dynamic in nature and they do not fit into nationally representative sampling.

"The ICMR has been continuously communicating with the respective state authorities. The findings of the previous survey from the dynamic containment zones have been communicated to the states for further action. To further aid in developing state intervention plans, following the ICMR survey, states have also conducted their zone/city-specific surveys," it said in a subsequent tweet.

The findings of the first national population-based serosurvey that took place in April-May indicated that 0.73 per cent of adults in India were exposed to SARS-CoV-2 infection, amounting to 6.4 million infections in total.

Based on the overall adjusted sero-prevalence of 0.73 per cent and reported COVID-19 cases, it was estimated that for every RT-PCR confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, there were 82-130 infections in India, noted the survey. (ANI)

Nearly half of Nepal's COVID-19 patients stay in home isolation, say authorites

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Kathmandu [Nepal], September 20 (ANI/Xinhua): Nearly half of the COVID-19 patients in Nepal are staying in home isolation with the Nepali government prioritising such facilities over hospitals for the asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic COVID-19 cases, Nepal's Ministry of Health and Population said.

According to the data from the ministry, there are a total of 17,478 active COVID-19 cases in Nepal as of Sunday. Of them, 8,407 patients, or about 48 percent of total active cases, have stayed in home isolation.

"We have urged the COVID-19 patients who show no symptom or mild symptom to stay at home isolation because they get better care at home with the homely environment," Sameer Adhikari, joint spokesperson at the health ministry, told Xinhua.

"People who stay at home isolation face little mental pressure than those who are kept at isolation centers at hospitals." He said that there would be little risk for family members, caregivers and the people of the community as long as the patient stays in home isolation by following the health protocol strictly.

Currently, most patients with symptoms have been admitted to hospitals, according to the ministry. "Home isolation has saved the hospitals from being overcrowded which would itself pose a risk of transmission at hospitals," said Adhikari. "It has also saved the hospital beds for patients with symptoms."

In late August, a cabinet meeting of the Nepali government decided to hospitalise only symptomatic patients while asymptomatic patients would be asked to isolate at home.

The Nepali government has prioritised home isolation for asymptotic and mildly symptomatic cases amid resurging coronavirus cases in the Himalayan country.

With 1,325 new cases on Sunday, Nepal has reported a total of 64,122 cases. Particularly, Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, has emerged as a new hotspot of the novel coronavirus in the recent weeks.

"It has been difficult for us to manage beds at Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and ventilators for the serious COVID-19 cases in the Kathmandu Valley," said Adhikari.

However, home isolation has not always been pleasing for the community who fear transmission from such patients. "It has been difficult to convince people of the community that there is little risk from the asymptomatic patients," said Adhikari.

As per the working procedure on monitoring of health condition of the COVID-19 patients staying at home and hotel isolation issued by Nepal's health ministry, a designated health worker needs to provide proper consultation to the patients staying at home isolation regarding the disease, its complexities, and how to keep people in the surrounding safe from infection.

Those who care for the patient need to notify the designated health worker if the patient develops any respiratory problem, chest pain, the color of lip and face changes to blue and the patient becomes unconscious, according to the working procedure. "The health worker needs to rush the patient to the hospital by arranging the ambulance," it says. (ANI/Xinhua)

Farmers in Haryana stage 3-hour protest against agriculture bills

Farmers in Haryana stage 3-hour protest against Farm Bills. Photo/ANI

Kurukshetra (Haryana) [India], September 20 (ANI): Farmers staged a three-hour protest, under the aegis of Bharatiya Kisan Union in Kurukshetra against the two farm sector reform bills that were passed in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters here, a farmer named Rakesh said, "It was a sy
mbolic protest. If the government does not listen to us, we will back Haryana bandh on September 25. We will also hold a meeting on September 27 in Delhi and announce nationwide protest."

"We will oppose the bills until the government rolls them back," he added.

Meanwhile, Delhi Police is on alert with respect to the farmers' protests that are taking place in the neighbouring states of the national capital over bills on agriculture sector reforms.

Forces have been deployed near the Ashok Nagar-Ghazipur area, as well as the Delhi-Haryana border.

Earlier in the day, the Rajya Sabha passed the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill amid protest from Opposition parties.

As per the bills, farmers can take their produce anywhere -- inter-state or intra-state -- beyond Agricultural produce market committees (APMCs). The state governments cannot levy any fee or cess on farmers.

According to the Centre, these bills will help small and marginal farms by allowing them to sell produce outside mandis and sign agreements with agri-business firms; and doing away with stock-holding limits on key commodities. (ANI)

UNSC is committed to Afghanistan's sovereignty: Khalilzad

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad (File photo)

Kabul [Afghanistan], September 20 (ANI): The statement issued by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on peace negotiations highlights its commitment to Afghanistan's "sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity & national unity", said US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, reported the Tolo News on Sunday

"The UNSC issued a statement on Afghanistan Peace Negotiations that underscores international commitment to Afghanistan's sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity & national unity," Tolo News reported quoting Khalilzad's tweet.

The ambassador said that the statement "supports the path the parties are currently on, which is to find a political settlement that accommodates all Afghans, one the region and international community can endorse in spirit and in action."

He called it a "unique moment for Afghanistan" adding that the opportunity must be seized.

"This is a unique moment for Afghanistan. Not only are Afghan parties negotiating directly, but as indicated by the UNSC statement, there is broad international support for a negotiated political settlement and peace in Afghanistan. This unique opportunity must be seized," he said in a subsequent tweet.

The UNSC on Friday issued a statement wherein it welcomed the start of the Afghanistan peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar.

"The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the Security Council's strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan," the UNSC said in a statement.

"The members of the Security Council recognized that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process that aims at a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, as well as an inclusive political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan," it added.

The statement further said that the members of the Security Council "strongly encouraged" parties to the negotiations -- Taliban and the Afghan government -- "to continue pursuing confidence-building measures, including reduction in violence, and to continue to engage in good faith."

"The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the importance of the United Nations' role in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and welcomed the efforts of all regional and international partners of Afghanistan in facilitating intra-Afghan negotiations and in helping the parties reach peace," it said further.

According to Tolo News, a joint meeting between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban is expected on Saturday in Doha to resolve the "disputed points regarding rules and regulations", as per sources on both sides.

Tolo News further reported that the two negotiating parties have a disagreement on four issues-- one of which includes the use of the word 'war' which the Taliban prefers to replace it with 'conflict'.

The opening ceremony of the Intra-Afghan negotiations was held in Doha, a week ago. Tolo News reports that the negotiating parties have held three official meetings, five advance meetings by contact groups to discuss the agenda and rules of talks. (ANI)

Russia, Belarus ordered to ensure contacts between officials, key companies

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Moscow [Russia], September 20 (ANI/Sputnik): Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, during their recent talks in Sochi agreed to task the authorities of both countries to establish personal contacts between heads of government agencies and strategic enterprises, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday.

"As for system-forming enterprises -- [the leaders agreed] to establish personal communication between heads of agencies and heads of these enterprises. These are the instructions given as a result of this communication in order for us to stop the downward trend in our bilateral relations, because this is the basis of our ties," Peskov said, as quoted by news portal.

On Monday, Lukashenko met with Putin in Sochi where the Russian President confirmed Moscow would lend Minsk $1.5 billion amid the current crisis in Belarus.

Mass protests in Belarus have been ongoing for over a month now. People took to the streets in Minsk and other big cities after the opposition denounced the official presidential election results -- according to which Lukashenko collected over 80 percent of the vote -- and claimed instead that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an opposition candidate, won the election. (ANI/Sputnik)

Russia restores international flights with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea

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Moscow [Russia], September 20 (ANI/Sputnik): Russia has restored international flights with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and South Korea, with citizens and permanent residents of the four countries allowed to enter Russia following the easing of the coronavirus-related measures, the Russian cabinet's press department said on Sunday.

"For citizens of four more countries - Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and South Korea - restrictions on entry to Russia, which were imposed due to the spread of the coronavirus disease, are lifted. This measure was approved by the government," a cabinet statement read.

One flight a week will operate from the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, the Belarusian capital Minsk, and Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, from Monday. Flights from Seoul, the South Korean capital, will resume from September 27, the cabinet said.

Citizens and permanent residents of the four aforementioned countries will be allowed to enter Russia. In turn, Russian citizens will also be permitted fly to these countries.

The decision to resume flights with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and South Korea was proposed at a meeting of the Russian coronavirus response centre on Friday. (ANI/Sputnik)

India extends USD 250 mn loan to Maldives to deal with Covid-19 economic impact

Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid (Photo: ANI)

Male [Maldives], September 20 (ANI): India has extended a USD 250 million loan to the Maldives government to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19.

"USD 250 million assistance provided to the Maldives by India, as budgetary and revenue support for mitigating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Mald
ivian economy. Under this, the SBI will subscribe to a Treasury Bond issued by the Government of Maldives with a comfortable 10-year tenor," the High Commission of India in the Maldives said on Sunday.

The loan was handed over at a ceremony here in the presence of Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, Indian High Commissioner Sunjay Sudhir and CEO of SBI in Male, Bharat Mishra.

The loan has been extended in response to the request made by Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for financial assistance and was announced after the virtual meeting between External Affairs minister S Jaishankar and Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid earlier this year.

Foreign Minister of Maldives Abdulla Shahid thanked India for the financial assistance and speaking in Hindi termed India as a "Mahan mitra" of the Maldives during the tough times caused by the pandemic.

"Today the whole world is currently fighting a battle that it has never faced before -- an enemy that we can't see, a danger that cannot be taken lightly and a virus that has brought the air travel (havai sewao) to a halt and forced countries to take tough decisions. This epidemic has forced many to close their borders and their homes," Shahid said in a video.

"But our 'mitro' -- like always -- have proven that this epidemic cannot force them to close their hearts. India during these tough times has been a 'mahan mitra (a great friend)'," he added in the video.

The Maldives foreign minister further took to Twitter India to express is gratitude towards the government of India for the Financial aid.

"Grateful to receive the USD 250 million financial assistance from India to the Maldives today. The financial assistance provided through subscription in GoM Domestic Treasury Bonds by SBI will support the financing of the revenue gap, and meet the Gov's immediate financing needs," the Maldivian foreign minister tweeted.

He added that the financial assistance is "the largest financial support package" announced by a bilateral partner during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the USD1.4 billion financial package announced in December 2018 and the cash grants for community projects, this is by far the largest single donor assistance the Maldives has received" Shahid said.

As per the latest updates by Johns Hopkins University, the Maldives has 9,649 COVID-19 cases and 33 deaths due to the pathogen. (ANI)

Australia reports fewest COVID-19 cases in 3 months

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Canberra [Australia], September 20 (ANI/Xinhua): Australia on Sunday confirmed 19 new COVID-19 cases, which is the lowest count in about three months.

As of Sunday afternoon, there had been altogether 26,898 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia.

Of the new cases, Victoria, the hardest-hit state 
by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, confirmed 14, which is the lowest number of new cases since June 19.

The national death toll has increased by five to 849. All five new deaths were reported in Victoria.

"All of today's five deaths are linked to known outbreaks in aged care facilities. To date, 761 people have died from coronavirus in Victoria," said a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria on Sunday.

The department also said that there are 376 active cases relating to the aged care facilities and 117 active cases among healthcare workers in the state.

Also on Sunday, the Australian government announced further investment in three new COVID-19 vaccine research projects.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said six million Australian dollars (4.3 million U.S. dollars) will be funded from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) for candidate vaccines being developed by the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney.

According to the media release, two vaccine candidates are targeting the tip of the spike protein, known as the receptor-binding domain, but using different vaccine techniques to compare which vaccine maximises the production of neutralising antibodies.

Besides, the University of Sydney will receive about half of the funding for a Phase 1/1b clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of a novel DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. (ANI/Xinhua)

Anurag Kashyap capable of doing what Payal Ghosh is suggesting: Ranaut

Kangana Ranaut (file pic) Anurag Kashyap (Image courtesy: Instagram)

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], September 20 (ANI): Actor Kangana Ranaut on Sunday said that "Anurag Kashyap is very much capable of doing what Payal Ghosh (is) suggesting," after Ghosh accused the filmmaker of sexual harassment.

The 'Tanu Weds Manu' actor took to Twitter and wrote, "Anurag is very mu
ch capable of doing what #PayalGhosh suggesting. He cheated on all his partners. Self-admittedly he has never been monogamous."

Talking about the 'Gangs of Wasseypur filmmaker's production house 'Phantom', she said, "Phantom was full of womanisers many #Me Too accused. I supported those victims before also. They started smear campaigns against me."

The 'Manikarnika' actor posted a clip from Ghosh's interview wherein she opened up about Kashyap "making her feel uncomfortable." Alongside the clip Ranaut tweeted, "I far as I know Anurag self-admittedly has never been monogamous even when he was married to various people. What Anurag did to Payal is a common practice in Bullywood. Treating struggling outsider girls like sex workers comes naturally to them #AnuragKashyap #PayalGhosh."

On Saturday, the 'Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi' actor Ghosh accused Kashyap of sexual harassment. Speaking to ANI, she said, "Five years ago I met Anurag Kashyap regarding work. He called me to his house. When I went there, he took me to a separate room and tried to sexually assault me. He forced himself on me."

"I request the authorities to kindly take action and let the country see the demon behind this creative guy. I am aware that it can harm me and my security is at risk. I am seeking action against him," said Ghosh.

Post the allegations, Kashyap responded on Twitter in which he denied the allegations, claiming that they were 'baseless'. "I neither behave like this nor do I ever tolerate this at any price," he said. (ANI)

Govt has paved way for 'Atmanirbhar Agriculture': Rajnath Singh on RS passing farm bills

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. (File photo)

New Delhi [India], September 20 (ANI): Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said the passage of the "two landmark" farm bills in the Rajya Sabha has "cemented the strong foundation for 'Atmanirbhar Agriculture'.

Amid the ongoing protests from the Opposition and farmers in several parts of the co
untry, the Rajya Sabha today passed the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. Both of these bills were passed by the Lower House with a voice vote a couple of days back.

"With the passing of two landmark agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha today, India has cemented the strong foundation for 'Atmanirbhar Agriculture'. This is the result of endless dedication and determination of the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," Singh tweeted.

He also praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his vision and leadership to "unleash the true potential of India's agriculture".

"The passage of both the bills in Parliament is indeed a landmark day for Indian Agriculture. I am thankful to Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi for his vision to unleash the true potential of India's agriculture," he added.

The Defence Minister further applauded Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar for "explaining all aspects of the Bills with clarity and conviction in both the Houses of Parliament."

Meanwhile, the Congress is planning to hold a nationwide agitation against the Centre accusing it of supporting corporates. A meeting in this regard has been called by the party on September 21.

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi have accused the Modi government of helping industrialists through these bills. On the other hand, the government has defended the farm bills, saying these have been brought to benefit farmers. (ANI)

Ten police officers killed in clashes with Taliban in Central Afghanistan

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Kabul [Afghanistan], September 20 (ANI/Sputnik): Ten police officers and 15 Taliban members were killed in clashes that are underway between the security forces and the terrorist group for the fourth day in a row in Afghanistan's central Uruzgan province, local sources told Sputnik on Sunday.

"Ten p
olicemen and 15 Taliban insurgents have been killed and several others wounded in the clashes so far," a source familiar with the matter said.

Several hundreds of Taliban fighters carried out attacks on security and defence forces in Uruzgan's Gizab district and took control over most of the area over the past three days, with the deadly fighting entering its fourth day now, the source said.

Two police officers were injured and subsequently taken hostage by the Taliban, the source added.

At the same time, a local official said that two police officers were killed and one was injured in the ongoing violence.

"Last night, Taliban insurgents attacked police in the Lundiani and Leblan Hajian areas of the Uruzgan district, killed two policemen and wounded another," Jalaluddin Wadan, the acting district governor of Dehrawot, told Sputnik.

The official did not provide information on casualties on the Taliban's end.

The Taliban have not commented on the matter at this point. (ANI/Sputnik)

Pakistan's economy has been completely destroyed in last two years: Nawaz Sharif

Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif

Islamabad [Pakistan], September 20 (ANI): Hitting out at the present Imran Khan-led government, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday termed his government as "nalayaq" (worthless) and said that the country's economy has been completely destroyed in the last two years.

Addressing t
he Opposition-led All Parties Conference (APC), Sharif said that the politicians who came to power were hanged, murdered, imprisoned or declared disqualified.

Dawn quoted the former Prime Minister as saying, "Pakistan has been constantly deprived of a democratic system...When the vote is dishonoured, the entire democratic system becomes meaningless. When it is decided before the election process as to who will win and who will lose, then it can be guessed how the public is betrayed and how the public's mandate is stolen."

Pakistan has been made a laboratory of experiments, he said while adding "Every child knows that no prime minister has been allowed to complete five years in power."

Stating that people who are responsible for robbing will have to be held accountable, he claimed that "Pakistan economy has been completely destroyed during last two years as the Pakistani rupee has gone even below the Nepalese rupee." He also accused the "nalayaq government" of taking u-turns.

Dawn further reported Sharif as saying that under the present government the "dictators" are allowed to have full power and on the other hand people who follow the law are being put in jail.

"When a dictator was first brought into the courtroom for violating the Constitution, you saw what happened. Court gave dictators the right to play with the Constitution and acquitted someone who broke the Constitution twice [...] Whereas the ones who follow the Constitution are still in jail," he said.

As per Dawn, former Prime Minister said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), with the connivance of PTI, was carrying out only "selective accountability".

"It is saddening that the situation has escalated to a state above the state. This parallel government illness is the root-cause of our problems," he added. (ANI)

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