Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Coronavirus spreading fast in Germany, healthcare system about to collapse: Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Berlin [Germany], October 28 (ANI/Sputnik): The coronavirus incidence in Germany is very high, and if this continues, the healthcare system will reach its limits in a few weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

"We are talking about the fact that the rate of the virus spread is especially high, we see an exponential increase in numbers. ... Today we had twice as many new infections as a week ago, similarly with other important indicators. For example, the number of patients in intensive care has doubled over the last 10 days," Merkel said at a press conference in Berlin following an online meeting with the heads of federal states on countering the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of patients who are on lung ventilation has also doubled in 9 days, she noted.

"Our healthcare system today is still coping with these challenges, but if these rates continue, then we will reach the limits of the capabilities of the health care system within few weeks," the chancellor added. (ANI/Sputnik)

Peshawar mosque blast exposed Imran Khan's tall claims of rooting out terrorism: Fazlur Rehman

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. (Photo: ANI)

Islamabad [Pakistan], October 28 (ANI): The mosque blast in Peshawar has exposed the tall claims of Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government about rooting out terrorism, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said on Wednesday.

Dawn quoted Rehman as urging the administrators of all seminaries to make their own security arrangements instead of waiting for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to improve its performance.

At least eight people were killed and more than 100 injured in a bomb blast on Tuesday inside a seminary in Peshawar's Dir Colony, reported Geo News quoting Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police Chief Sanaullah Abbasi and hospital officials.

While speaking at a press conference along with JUI's Sindh chapter secretary Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro at Madressa Manzil Gah in Sukkur, Rehman said that the recently held Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) rallies proved that people were fed up with the 'selected' government.

He further said that the country's economic conditions had become so dangerous that people were dying of hunger.

The PDM chief said they were not ready to talk to the PTI at any cost though he did not rule out dialogue with 'others', Dawn reported.

He also said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was the "B-team of the Imran-led government".

Speaking on the islands of Sindh, Rehman said that these are the properties of the provinces and the Centre's attempts to occupy the land will not be accepted.

On the restrictions being imposed by the Centre on the media, Rehman said that the opposition parties support the journalists' fight for their rights. (ANI)

Hong Kong bans Air India flights till Nov 10 as passengers test COVID-19 positive

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Hong Kong, October 28 (ANI): Air India flights have been banned by the Hong Kong authorities citing five Mumbai passengers tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the Department of Health has said that Air India flights from Mumbai have been banned from Wednesday until November 10.

The official COVID-19 tally stated by the Hong Kong authorities stands at 5,310 with 510 deaths.

Earlier on August 18, Air India had announced that its Vande Bharat Mission flights to and from Hong Kong have been banned by the Hong Kong authorities due to COVID-19 related issues.

Air India had suspended its flights to Hong Kong from February 7 due to the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. (ANI)

India condemns personal attacks on President Macron, French teacher's killing

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New Delhi [India], October 28 (ANI): Amid intense backlash for alleged Islamophobia from countries like Turkey and Pakistan, India on Wednesday condemned the gruesome killing of a French teacher and personal attacks in unacceptable language on President Emmanuel Macron.

"We strongly deplore the personal attacks in unacceptable language on President Emmanuel Macron in violation of the most basic standards of international discourse," the Ministry of External Affairs said in an official statement.

Extending condolences to the teacher's family and the people of France, the MEA said: "We also condemn the brutal terrorist attack that took the life of a French teacher in a gruesome manner that has shocked the world."

There is no justification for terrorism for any reason or under any circumstance, it added.

The Ministry's statement comes days after Samuel Paty, a school teacher, was beheaded by an 18-year-old teenager on the outskirts of Paris after he showed cartoons depicting the Prophet during a lesson.

Paty was posthumously granted France's highest award, the Legion d'Honneur, and commemorated in the national ceremony at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

While this prompted the French President to take stern action against terror activities in the country, Turkey and Pakistan have continued to attack Macron's decisions.

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying by CNN, "What is Macron's problem with Islam? What is his problem with Muslims?"

"Macron needs some sort of mental treatment. What else is there to say about a head of state who does not believe in the freedom of religion and behaves this way against the millions of people of different faiths living in his own country?" he added.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had slammed Macron and said that he has "chosen to deliberately provoke Muslims".

Taking to Twitter, Khan said, "Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation."

"By attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe and across the world."

"The last thing the world wants or needs is further polarisation. Public statements based on ignorance will create more hate, Islamophobia and space for extremists," he had said in the following tweet. (ANI)

8 people charged in US for conspiring to act as illegal Chinese agents, 5 arrested

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Washington [US], October 28 (ANI): The US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday charged eight individuals with conspiring to act as illegal Chinese agents, and have arrested five of the suspects.

According to an official release by DOJ, a complaint and arrest warrants were unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging eight defendants with conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People's Republic of China (PRC), out of which six defendants also face related charges of conspiring to commit interstate and international stalking.

The defendants, allegedly acting at the direction and under the control of PRC government officials, conducted surveillance of and engaged in a campaign to harass, stalk, and coerce certain residents of the United States to return to the PRC as part of a global, concerted, and extralegal repatriation effort known as "Operation Fox Hunt."

The suspects were identified as Zhu Yong, Hongru Jin, Michael McMahon, Rong Jing, Zheng Congying, Zhu Feng, Hu Ji and Lin Minjun.

Yong, Jin and McMahon were arrested today and will be arraigned this afternoon via teleconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo, while Jing and Congying were arrested in the Central District of California, and their initial appearances will take place in that district later today.

Feng, Ji and Minjun remain at large.

According to the complaint, the defendants participated in an international campaign to threaten, harass, surveil and intimidate John Doe-1, a resident of New Jersey, and his family in order to force them to return to the PRC, as part of an international effort by the PRC government known within the PRC as "Operation Fox Hunt" and "Operation Skynet."

In furtherance of the operation, the PRC government targets Chinese individuals living in foreign countries that the PRC government alleges have committed crimes under PRC law and seeks to repatriate them to the PRC to face charges, stated the DOJ release.

The release further added that the defendants allegedly engaged in clandestine, unsanctioned, and illegal conduct within the United States and facilitated the travel of PRC government officials (PRC Officials) to US soil in order to further carry out illegal acts.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C Demers said: "With today's charges, we have turned the PRC's Operation Fox Hunt on its head -- the hunters became the hunted, the pursuers the pursued.... The five defendants the FBI arrested this morning on these charges of illegally doing the bidding of the Chinese government here in the United States now face the prospect of prison."

"The Chinese government's brazen attempts to surveil, threaten, and harass our own citizens and lawful permanent residents, while on American soil, are part of China's diverse campaign of theft and malign influence in our country and around the world," said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

"Today's announcement of these charges further highlights the FBI's ongoing and aggressive commitment to investigate China's efforts to illegally impose its will in the United States....This case should serve as a reminder to the People's Republic of China that when it directs criminal activity within our borders, the FBI and its law enforcement partners will make sure the perpetrators are held accountable," said Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. of the FBI Newark Field Office.

The release also stated that between 2016 and 2019, multiple PRC Officials have directed the defendants, and several others, to engage in efforts to coerce the victims to return to the PRC, including surveillance and coercion, targeting and harassment of victims' daughter, and continued harassment of victims. (ANI)

Israel, US sign deal that envisions applying scientific cooperation agreement to West Bank

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Tel Aviv [Israel], October 28 (ANI/Sputnik): Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador in Jerusalem David Friedman on Wednesday signed an extension to the Israel-US scientific cooperation deal that envisions applying the agreement to the West Bank and Golan Heights.

"Today, we are applying the Israel-US science agreement to Judea and Samaria [the Israeli term for the West Bank], and the Golan Heights. This is a great change. This is a victory against all of the organizations and countries that boycott Judea and Samaria. We will not stop taking action so that the entire area will prosper and flourish. The scientific cooperation agreement is especially important at this time, when we are dealing with the coronavirus," Netanyahu said during a signing ceremony, as quoted by his press office.

The Prime Minister specified that extending the agreement was important in light of the global race for a COVID-19 vaccine.

"I am working day and night to procure vaccines for the citizens of the State of Israel," the prime minister said, adding that he talks with world leaders "almost on a daily basis."

The official signing ceremony was held at the Ariel University in the West Bank's Jewish settlement of Ariel. (ANI/Sputnik)

India, Central Asian countries call for building comprehensive India-Central Asia partnership

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar speaking to the Foreign Ministers of Central Asia during the second meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue. Photo/ANI

New Delhi [India], October 28 (ANI): The Foreign Minister of India and the Central Asian countries on Wednesday called for building a comprehensive and enduring India-Central Asia partnership on the basis of their historical, cultural and civilisational bonds as well as traditionally close people-to-people contacts.

The second meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue was held in a virtual format under the chairmanship of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic.

During the meeting, the Ministers assessed the first meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue held on January 13, 2019, in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in establishing a platform for strengthening cooperation between India and the Central Asian countries in political, security, economic and commercial, development partnership, humanitarian and cultural spheres as well as exchanging views on regional and international issues of mutual interest and enhancing cooperation under the framework of the United Nations and other multilateral fora.

According to an official statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), "The Ministers emphasised the need to continue close cooperation between the Sanitary and Epidemiological Services of India and the Central Asian countries in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan acknowledged India's humanitarian medical assistance to their countries in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic."

During the meeting, the Central Asian countries also welcomed the provision by India of USD 1 billion Line of Credit for priority developmental projects in fields such as connectivity, energy, IT, healthcare, education, agriculture among others.

The Ministers also welcomed India's offer to provide grant assistance for implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDP) for furthering socio-economic development in the countries of the region.

The dignitaries emphasised the importance of concerted efforts to further expand trade and economic cooperation including promoting direct ties between the businesses of India and the Central Asian countries, the MEA said.

It further said that the Ministers stressed that as a B2B body under the India-Central Asia Dialogue, India-Central Asia Business Council (ICABC) should promote business linkages, facilitate greater understanding of taxation, business regulations in India and the Central Asian countries and incentivise trade, business and investment, especially in the area of small and medium enterprises.

While lauding India's efforts to modernise the infrastructure of the Chabahar port in Iran, the Central Asian Foreign Ministers highlightted the importance of connectivity for increasing trade and commerce as well as people-to-people contacts between India and the Central Asian countries.

"The Ministers expressed their continued interest in further developing the transit and transport potential of their countries, improving the logistics network of the region and promoting joint initiatives to create regional and international transport corridors," the MEA statement read.

Meanwhile, the Central Asian countries strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the determination of their countries to combat this menace by destroying terrorist safe-havens, networks, infrastructure and funding channels. They also emphasised the need for every country to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks against other countries.

On the issue of the return of peace in Afghanistan, the called for the settlement of the Afghan conflict on the principle of Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process.

They expressed their interest in strengthening cooperation for the development and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, including through the implementation of infrastructure, energy, transit and transport projects. "They also emphasized preserving the socio-economic development and political gains made by Afghanistan in the last 19 years. The Ministers extended support for a united, sovereign and democratic Republic of Afghanistan," the MEA said.

Drawing attention to the significant potential for joint initiatives in the implementation of cultural events, educational and research projects with the participation of Afghanistan, the Ministers expressed their interest in promoting the participation of the Afghan side in international youth forums, festivals, competitions, scientific conferences, exhibitions and other joint events.

"The Ministers of the Central Asian countries expressed appreciation to India for hosting of the Central Asian media delegation in India in April 2019, the training of Central Asian diplomats at the Sushma Swaraj Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi in July 2019 and the Annual International Dance Festival with a focus on Central Asia, organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) in New Delhi in December 2019," the statement added. (ANI)

Biden holds 17-point lead over Trump in new Wisconsin poll

US Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden (File photo)

Washington [US], October 28 (ANI): US Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a commanding 17 per cent lead over President Donald Trump in Wisconsin in a new poll of the key battleground state, released less than a week before Election Day.

The ABC News-Washington Post poll found Biden supported by 57 per cent of likely voters, far ahead of the president's 40 per cent, reported The Hill.

The former vice president has gained 5 percentage points since the last poll in mid-September, while President Trump has lost 6 points.

Wednesday's poll comes a day after a survey from the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed Biden leading by 9 points in the state, 53-44, among likely voters.

According to The Hill, Trump visited Wisconsin as recently as Friday, holding a rally in Waukesha, where he once again hammered Biden over his willingness to lock down the country again should scientists deem it necessary to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The ABC News-Washington Post poll was conducted on October 20-25 among 809 likely voters in Wisconsin. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.

The numbers for the pre-election voting in the presidential election in the US have surpassed those of the 2016 election.

The US presidential election is scheduled to be held on November 3. (ANI)

Transgender person shot dead in Pakistan's Mianwali

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Islamabad [Pakistan], October 28 (ANI): In another incident of lawlessness in Pakistan, unidentified persons shot dead a transgender in Mianwali on Wednesday, informed police.

The transgender was identified as Arsalan, who was killed when a few men barged into his residence and opened fire on him, reported Geo News.

After killing the victim, the suspects fled from the area.

According to Geo News, the body of the victim has been shifted to the District Headquarters (DHQ) hospital in Mianwali for postmortem.

The police have initiated a probe into the matter and are currently trying to identify the culprits using CCTV footage. (ANI)

ThinkYou Offers Science-Based Diet Plans for a Healthy Journey

Dt Himanshu Rai - Chief Nutritionist (Image credit: ANI)

New Delhi / Mumbai (Maharashtra), India, Oct 28 (ANI/BusinessWire India): ThinkYou is a team of experienced health professionals in the field of diet therapy, the team consist of renowned senior Nutritionists and Doctors.

The team do not offer general diet plans or scientifically unproven diet plans, but they offer science-based diet plans. The Company follows scientific journals, national & international dietary guidelines such as ICMR, NIN, CODEX ALIMENTARIUS to provide scientific diet plans.

This is their endeavour to see everyone healthy and fit during their health journey with ThinkYou. Their smile would be the company's success!


A team of Doctors and Nutritionists ( analyse scientifically the body's exact nutritional requirements with the help of blood test reports, height-weight, BMI-BMR, Fat percentage, Medical history and Doctor's recommendation. Based on these, the team will prepare a customized nutrition-dense delicious meal plan, so that one can achieve their desired health goals while enjoying mouth-watering delicious meals!

ThinkYou team treats every client with full attention and provide customized meal plans to fulfil actual scientific requirements of not only macronutrients (Calories, Protein, Fat, Carbohydrate, Fibres) but also of micronutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants). The company monitors regular diet and motivates to achieve optimum health goals. The team break myths about diet and educate people to live a healthy lifestyle with the help of sound and long experience.


The company offers different diet solutions for different health conditions through experienced Doctors and Nutritionists. Anyone can visit the online clinic ( through smartphone/laptop/desktop/tablet easily. Here one can talk to the experts through video call or telephone and discuss their health concerns to get scientifically validated diet solutions.


Anyone can easily get an online appointment as per their suitable and convenient time through email/telephone/WhatsApp ( Customer care team would be more than happy to assist!


All the company's health packages are available on the website. Payments are safe, secured and supported by Instamojo.


ThinkYou has a dedicated customer care team to assist the clients for any sort of diet issues! The company's team is experienced and reply quickly. For convenience, the team is available on WhatsApp also, apart from emails and phone calls.

This story is provided by BusinessWire India. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/BusinessWire India)

Lahore court allows NAB to close inquiry against Shehbaz Sharif in illegal allotment of plots case

PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif (File photo)

Lahore [Pakistan], October 28 (ANI): An accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday granted the National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) plea to close a two-decade-old inquiry against Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif in connection with the alleged illegal allotment of 12 plots.

Judge Jawadul Hassan announced this verdict after hearing arguments of the NAB prosecutor, reported ARY News.

The NAB shelved the inquiry pending for the past 20 years for want of evidence.

The prosecutor said all relevant record was completely gutted due to a fire engulfing the building of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA). There is no evidence to corroborate charges against Shehbaz Sharif, he added.

Moreover, the bureau said, two people, Mian Attaullah and Mian Raza Attauallah, named in the inquiry have passed away, according to ARY News.

The former Punjab chief minister had been accused of allotting 12 plots to his favourite persons. Lahore NAB had initiated the inquiry against Shehbaz and others in 2000.

When NAB launched an investigation, orders were issued for cancellation of plots.

In September, Sharif was arrested in a money laundering case from the Lahore High Court, according to Gulf News.

The NAB officials took him into custody from the premises after his bail plea was rejected on account of alleged money-laundering and maintaining assets beyond known sources of income, it added. (ANI)

European Commission, ICSSR sign new implementing arrangement to enhance scientific cooperation

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Geneva [Switzerland], October 28 (ANI): The European Commission and the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) on Wednesday signed a new implementing arrangement to enhance scientific cooperation.

According to an official statement issued by the European Union, Ambassador of the European Union to India, Ugo Astuto, and the Member Secretary of the ICSSR, Professor Virendra Kumar Malhotra, signed the Implementing Arrangement in a virtual mode.

This initiative will "provide opportunities to Indian researchers (Principal Investigators of Research Projects, Senior Fellowship Awardees and Post-Doctoral Fellows) who are supported by the ICSSR and want to pursue research collaborations with European researchers, supported by the ERC (European Research Council)".

The role of the ERC and the ICSSR is to facilitate contacts between their respective scholars who are interested in international cooperation.

On the signing, Ugo Astuto said: "Science has no borders. Global research collaboration is essential for developing sustainable solutions to global and societal challenges. This arrangement will help foster collaboration in the field of social sciences between the EU and India."

Virendra Kumar Malhotra also welcomed the new initiative with Europe and said "it will allow ICSSR scholars to deepen and widen their knowledge by engaging with ERC grantees across Europe".

Since the start of the ERC in 2007, as many as 62 Indian nationals have been awarded an ERC Grant.

Compared with other non-European grant holders, Indians are ranked third after nationals of the US and Canada, which shows India's scientific excellence, as per the statement. (ANI

Pompeo arrives in Maldives for Indo-Pacific talks

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Male [Maldives], October 28 (ANI): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, currently on his Indo-pacific visit, arrived at the Maldives on Wednesday to begin discussions on ties between the two countries.

In a Twitter post, Pompeo stated that he was thrilled to be the first Secretary of State to visit the Maldives in nearly three decades, and looked forward to strengthening the US-Maldives relationship.

"Thrilled to be the first Secretary of State to visit the Maldives in nearly three decades. I look forward to strengthening the US-Maldives relationship and discussing our mutual interests in a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region," tweeted Pompeo.

Pompeo, who recently concluded a 2+2 Ministerial dialogue with India, also visited Sri Lanka on Tuesday during his Asia visit.

"Secretary Pompeo will travel to Male to reaffirm our close bilateral relationship and advance our partnership on issues ranging from regional maritime security to the fight against terrorism," said Morgan Ortagus, US State Department spokesperson last week.

After India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Pompeo will be visiting Indonesia for talks regarding the Indo-Pacific region.

He will be travelling along with Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper from October 25 to 29. (ANI)

Indian envoy, Kuwaiti Assistant Foreign Minister discuss ways to enhance ties

Indian Ambassador to Kuwait, Sibi George, met Nasser Al-Hein, Assistant Foreign Minister for International Organisations, on Wednesday. (Photo credit: Twitter/India in Kuwait)

Kuwaiti City [Kuwait], October 28 (ANI): Indian Ambassador to Kuwait, Sibi George on Wednesday met Nasser Al-Hein, Assistant Foreign Minister for International Organisations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kuwait on Wednesday and discussed ways to enhance cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral forums.

"Ambassador met Nasser Al-Hein, Assistant Foreign Minister for International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oct 28, and discussed, inter alia, bilateral ties, means of enhancing cooperation at bilateral and multilateral fora and regional and international developments," India in Kuwait said in a tweet.

On October 26, the Ambassador had met with Kuwaiti Assistant Foreign Minister for Asia Affairs, Sulaiman Ali Al-Saeed, and discussed bilateral ties, existing institutional cooperation and ways of further strengthening the ties between the two countries across all domains.

A few days ago, the ambassador also met Rabah Al-Rabah, Director General, Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry and discussed ways of strengthening bilateral trade and economic cooperation between the two nations.

"Ambassador met Rabah Al-Rabah, Director General, Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry on October 22, and discussed ways of strengthening bilateral trade and economic cooperation, including through enhancing engagements between the business communities of the two countries," the embassy tweeted. (ANI)

Pakistan's online spaces for dissent, freedom of expression shrinks, while hate speech, censorship increase: Report

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Islamabad [Pakistan], October 28 (ANI): Online space for dissent and freedom of expression has shrunk in Pakistan, while hate speech and digital surveillance has increased, informed a press statement from the Freedom Network group on Wednesday.

In the statement, the group have noted a "regression" in Pakistan's cyber policies and said that online censorship and surveillance, breach of privacy, hate speech, misinformation and disinformation have increased in the country during 2020, reported Dawn.

The country faced 'several setbacks' in this year in terms of digital rights, freedom of expression as well as the right to online information, informed the group's annual report 'Closing Spaces: Coercive Cyber Regulations Impede Online Journalism and Free Speech', and the country has scored a meagre 38 out of 100 in global internet freedom rankings.

The group alleged that efforts had been made to muzzle mediapersons, members of opposition political parties, civil society members and civilians. It also blamed the "aggressive federal government" for taking steps to "extend and expand its authority to overregulate the media sector and to redefine the boundaries of free speech".

"The cybercrime law was repeatedly invoked against journalists and opinion makers for exercising freedom of expression and social media activism," Dawn quoted the press release.

"Internet freedom declined during 2020 due to authorities' increased blocking of political, social, and cultural websites and undeclared policy of connectivity restrictions and increased disinformation. Several journalists and rights activists faced inquiries, abductions, investigations, arrests and criminal related to their online/social media activities and posts," said the press statement of Freedom Network.

Additionally, several women journalists reported feeling vulnerable and unsafe due to online bullying and threats by various sections including supporters and members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

"It is troubling to note that the accumulative effect of the slide in enforcement of digital rights are contributing to a general closing of online spaces in Pakistan," said Iqbal Khattak, Executive Director of Freedom Network.

Pakistan has been known for strangling press freedom by imposing censorship or arresting journalists over bizarre reasons. The abduction of Mattiullah Jan on July 21, a reporter and a critic of Prime Minister Imran Khan's party, had brought forth Khan's attempts to control the country's media again.

Pakistan has for several years continued a poor track record on press freedom. The 2020 world press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders has reported that Pakistan slipped six spots since 2017 to 145th place out of 180 countries.

The New York Times reported that in the last five years, as many as 11 journalists have been killed in Pakistan, seven of them since Khan was sworn in as the country's Prime Minister. (ANI)

Five Taliban militants killed in clashes with Afghan Army in Zabul

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Kabul [Afghanistan], October 28 (ANI/Sputnik): At least five Taliban terrorists, including a commander who was among the prisoners released by officials in Kabul under the US-brokered deal, were killed in the course of clashes in the southern Zabul province, local police chief Hekmatullah Kochi said on Wednesday.

"Ahmad Shah, a Taliban commander who had recently been released among 5,000 Taliban prisoners, was shot dead yesterday between the Shahr-e Safa district and the capital [of the Zabul province], Qalat-e Gilzay," Kochi said in a press release, adding that two other Taliban fighters were left injured.

According to the Zabul police chief, the Taliban militants were killed as they attacked a local checkpoint of the Afghan security forces.

In a separate incident in the northeastern Afghan province of Kunduz, a blast has caused another 10 casualties among the Taliban, including five fatalities.

"Five Taliban insurgents, including a commander, Farid known as Mohammad, were killed and five others were wounded in a bomb blast in the Tarnab area of Kunduz's 8th district late yesterday," the Afghan army's 217th Pamir Corps said in a press release.

The Taliban have not yet commented on either of the incidents. (ANI/Sputnik)

Bursting at the seams: Can Pakistan survive?

PoK activist Amjad Ayub Mirza ()

Glasgow [UK], October 28 (ANI): The hat trick of Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM) public rallies in Pakistan has proved one point beyond doubt that the Pakistan Army has been brought into the domain of grassroot public debate as never before.

Three times prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, now living in exile in the UK, accused the Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Bajwa and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General Faiz Hameed of engineering the ascent to power of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan.

He has thus not only exposed the uncanny role of the military establishment in running the affairs of the executive by publically unmasked the creepy character of the military institution which according to Nawaz Sharif has developed into a 'state above the state'.

Each one of the speakers at the PDM rallies has endorsed the speech of Nawaz Sharif which, despite efforts by the current government to sabotage it by switching off the internet, were broadcast live at the Gujranwala and Quetta rallies on October 16 and 25 respectively. The thousands who came to listen to their leaders did not buy accusations by the spin-doctors of the PTI government that PDM was following an anti-Pakistan, pro-India agenda.

Imran Khan has lost his credibility as a ruler. And rightly so. His election promise that he will restore the dignity of the Pakistani people by not borrowing money from foreign countries or banks was thwarted on the very next day of his election victory (July 26, 2018) when his handpicked finance minister Assad Omer told the media that they have to go to the IMF for an emergency loan. Since then Imran Khan has been globetrotting asking for financial help. In the first year of his governance, Imran Khan government had accumulated a total of Rs. 7,509 billion of public debt.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the total public debt at the end of the fiscal year June 2019 stood at Rs 31.786 trillion! Assad Omer warned that the country was near bankruptcy. In November 2019 the State Bank of Pakistan shocked the country by revealing that during the 13 months of Imran Khan's government the total debt of Pakistan of 71 years was up by 35 per cent adding Rs 10,000 billion to debt in the same period.

The mismanagement of the economy led to a skyrocketing price hike of almost every item of daily necessity. However, it was the 262 per cent jump in the price of 100 local and imported medicines that shocked the nation. These medicines included those used for high blood pressure, glaucoma, and epilepsy, to treat seizures during pregnancy, cancer, and rabies. The price of vegetables and meat also saw an increase of 20 to 50 per cent on a weekly basis.

Exports were in steep decline as well in Pakistan and it was reported in January 2020 that country's exports had declined by USD 61 million to USD 1.937 billion when compared with the same period in January 2019, hence, exports, in January 2020, showed a negative growth of 3.4 per cent. But the real bombshell was dropped when it was announced that for the first time in 68 years Pakistan's Gross National Product (GDP) had slipped into negative growth of 0.38 per cent and the industrial sector showed a negative growth of 2.27 per cent in 2018-19

Added to the above misfortunes were the sugar and flour scandals that revealed billions of rupees of corruption by those who were close associates of Imran Khan. The political witch hunt of the opposition parties and curb on print and broadcast media by the Imran Khan government and the prime ministers' stubbornness in resolving the political deadlock were viewed as lack of political genius and seem to have played an instrumental role in the formation of the eleven party alliance of PDM.

As Pakistan struggled to grapple with the free-fall downward trend in the economy, its failure to galvanise international support against India after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A of the Indian constitution, developed into serious diplomatic isolation. Not only that Pakistan failed to call for a UN Human Rights Council session on the Kashmir issue but the very fact that the Organisation of Islamic Community (OIC) also refused to take up the issue completely knocked out the Imran Khan government in the ring of international diplomacy.

The cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy has been anti-India propaganda and when the world turned the other way and refused to buy Pakistan's diplomatic commodity based on hate-mongering against India, it not only alienated the country further but also had a devastating effect on the psychology of the general population. Hence in all of the PDM rallies, speakers have criticised Imran Khan for being responsible for the so-called 'Sakoot-e-Kashmir' (Fall of Kashmir).

China has become weary of the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) since no work has been carried out on building the CPEC infrastructure since the Imran Khan government came to power. The Chairman of the CPEC Authority General (R) Asim Saleem Bajwa has been accused of being involved in billions of dollars of corruption and running at least 99 pizza franchises in the US in the name of his family members. Opposition to CPEC from the locals in Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has been growing and Pakistan's attempts to merge GB in Pakistan have been met with conclusive opposition from all sections of society.

The election due on November 15 in Gilgit- Baltistan are seen as a tactical measure on behalf of Imran Khan to bring a PTI government in power in GB, however, that possibility seems farfetched. With the presence of Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in GB who is running a marathon election campaign, the possibility at best seems to be the formation of a coalition government.

Protests in PoK against bad road conditions, lack of health facilities and schools and against price hike have become a daily occurrence. Insurgency in Baluchistan is gaining momentum with the Baloch freedom fighters gaining experience in guerrilla warfare tactics and striking the Pakistan army check posts and convoys on almost a daily basis.

Similarly in Sindh, rural and urban Sindh are fast coming on the same page against the imperial extortion and land grab by Pakistan. The most recent example being the opposition Pakistan had to face against a Presidential decree regarding Pakistan Island Development Authority that would bring the island of Indian Ocean in the Sindh water territory under the federal control. On October 6 the provincial assembly of Sindh passed a resolution that unanimously rejected the presidential ordinance.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has become a force that cannot be ignored. It is demanding an enquiry into the atrocities that the Pakistan Army has committed during the so-called war on terror killing thousands of local innocent tribal.

In a nutshell, Pakistan is bursting at its seams. The question is can Pakistan survive as a viable nation-state? Well, the answer to this question depends on many factors. Internal factors that would decide the fate of Pakistan include her distancing itself from the two-nation theory that is the basis of its most negative India-hate narrative. Besides Pakistan will have to decisively reform its army and intelligence institutions and bar them from any interference in public space whether it be political, economic or social. All military business concerns must be nationalised and then privatised.

Externally, Pakistan has to mend its ways with India by returning the occupied territories of PoJK and GB. Disengage with sponsoring terrorism and providing safe havens for foreign terrorists and dismantle its terror infrastructure including training camps and financial assistance.

Unless as Maryam Nawaz, the vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) slogan 'Vote ko izzat do" (Respect the vote) is established as a governing principle of democracy in Pakistan, there will be more chaos which should be a cause of concern for regional peace.

Hence, it will be up to the regional powers, big or small, to join hands in the greater interest of global peace and economic stability to help indigenous freedom movements to help dismember the artificial state of Pakistan.

Disclaimer: The author of this opinion article is Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza, who is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in exile in the UK. (ANI)

Saudi Arabia removes PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan's map, extremist calls move 'Diwali Gift' to India

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London [UK], October 28 (ANI): Saudi Arabia has removed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan's map, said PoK activist Amjad Ayub Mirza on Wednesday.

"Saudi Arab removes Pakistani occupied Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan's map!!!!," he tweeted.

He also tweeted
 a picture that was captioned, "Saudi Arabia's Diwali gift to India-- removes Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir from Pakistan's map," the picture's text read.

According to media reports, Saudi Arabia released a 20 Riyal banknote to commemorate its presidency of organising the G-20 Summit on November 21-22. It was further reported that the world map displayed on the banknote does not show Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Kashmir as parts of Pakistan.

Media reports say that Saudi Arabia's step is nothing short of an attempt to disgrace Pakistan, which also seems to be "adapting to its new bloc".

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in September stated that they have seen reports regarding elections to the so-called "Gilgit-Baltistan" Assembly to be held on November 15 and took a strong objection to it.

"The Government of India conveyed strong protest to Pakistan Government and reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the so-called Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of India," the MEA stated.

The Imran Khan government previously released a new political map of Pakistan, claiming Indian territories of Junagadh, Sir Creek and Manavadar in Gujarat, of Jammu and Kashmir and a part of Ladakh.

This came after the first anniversary of the Indian government's decision to revoke Article 370 which gave special powers to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)

Instagram to allow users live stream for as long as 4 hours

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Washington [US], October 28: Photo-sharing application Instagram reported on Tuesday (nearby time) it has broadened as far as possible for live streams from an hour to four hours. The change is worldwide and applies to all Instagram clients. 

The explanation for the move, Instagram stated, is helping makers - yoga teachers, artists, craftsmen, cooks, and such - to do longer meetings with their crowd without being intruded on consistently, revealed Mashable, 

Notwithstanding, this might be accessible to accounts "on favorable terms," with no set of experiences of IP or strategy infringement, Instagram said. 

According to Instagram, it is likewise adding the choice to chronicle live transmissions for up to 30 days. 

"Presently your live recordings will be kept in your file. No one but you can see them. After your live recordings end, they will be accessible in your file for 30 days. You can download your live recordings to your gadget or transfer them to IGTV from your document," said a notification that will be appeared to clients on dispatch, revealed Mashable. 

Instagram said this new element will dispatch 'soon.' 

The organization likewise said that it will refresh the 'Live Now' segment on IGTV and toward the finish of a live stream, with furnishing individuals with more substance that may intrigue them, both from the makers they follow, and those they don't.

Uzbekistan to speed up selling of state-owned business to private sector

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (File Photo)

Tashkent [Uzbekistan], October 28 (ANI/Xinhua): Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has approved a list of state-owned properties and enterprises to be sold to the private sector to speed up the privatization process, a presidential decree said Wednesday.

The decree, "On the measures to accelerate reforming of state-owned enterprises and privatization of state assets," envisages transformation of 32 large state-owned enterprises and selling 15 state assets to the private sector.

Nearly 300 enterprises with state shares in such sectors as oil and gas, food, media and information technology will be sold fully to the private sector, Uzbek Justice Ministry said.

Since Mirziyoyev took office in 2016, Uzbekistan has taken a series of measures to promote economic reforms, including liberalizing its foreign exchange market, reducing taxes and offering preferential treatment to foreign investment. (ANI/Xinhua)

Purple Quarter assists Lendingkart to hire their new Chief Technology Officer

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Bangalore (Karnataka) [India], October 28 (ANI/PRNewswire): Purple Quarter, a Bangalore-based tech-head search service provider has closed yet another deal, this time harmonizing the move of Giridhar Yasa to Lendingkart, where he will serve as their Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Based on LendingKart's requirements, Purple Quarter says that they had a few options in mind, but Giridhar was their first choice based on the mandate. Giridhar, an IIT Guwahati alumni, was a Principal Architect for Flipkart Cloud Platform where he worked across data-center technologies, IaaS, storage, PaaS, and security infrastructure services.

Apart from his tech skills, he is an extremely humble and down to earth individual, which is a great cultural match for an institution like Lendingkart.

"With Giri's previous experience as the Principal Architect at Flipkart, he is best suited for the CTO position in Lendingkart. As Lendingkart scales up their business, the skills and expertise of Giri will be instrumental in this particular field," said Roopa Kumar, the Co-Founder and COO of Purple Quarter.

At LendingKart, Giridhar will be in charge of the execution of technology and architectural thinking. With Lendingkart looking to increase scale, he will build systems from a growth perspective of the company in the near future. He will also manage ideation and stakeholder management sling with team-building and mentoring.

"This has been our first association with Purple Quarter based on strong industry recommendations for their Tech leadership hiring capabilities. We had a smooth hiring process and quality time to evaluate the candidates for finalization of Giri for the role of CTO," said Harshvardhan Lunia, the Co-Founder and CEO of Lendingkart.

Purple Quarter was LendingKart's exclusive partner in the search for this particular role. They are a 3-year-old tech-head search firm that was instrumental in the search of industry-changing moves like the CTO of Swiggy, CPTO of Acko, CPTO of PharmEasy and many Tech Leadership positions in TookiTaki, InMobi, etc.

This story is provided by PRNewswire. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/PRNewswire)

ETNAM commends US Senate for introducing resolution calling China's atrocities on Uyghurs as genocide

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Washington [US], October 28 (ANI): East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM) commended the US Senate for introducing a resolution that recognises China's atrocities against Uyghurs as a genocide.

"US Senators Robert Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and John Cornyn introduced a bipartisan resolution on Monday to designate human rights abuses perpetrated by the People's Republic of China against the Uyghur people and other Turkic peoples in Occupied East Turkistan as a genocide," the ETNAM said in a statement.

According to the statement, Menendez and Cornyn were joined by Senators James Risch, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin, and Jeff Merkley. "The resolution would hold China accountable under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and begin the process to coordinate an international response to bring these abuses to a halt," it added.

"Working with the people of East Turkistan, ETNAM has been actively pushing for a genocide resolution for over two years," said ETNAM's Founder and President Salih Hudayar and added, "It is our hope that the U.S. Government and the international community take immediate and stronger action to bring an end China's prolonged colonization, genocide, and occupation in East Turkistan."

The statement made by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee "incorrectly described the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in East Turkistan as ethnic minorities" and the ETNAM had "made it very clear" in its draft resolutions handed to over 100 Congressional Members that the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic peoples constitute the majority of East Turkistan's population and that it is the Chinese colonists who are the "minorities."

According to the statement, the ETNAM urges the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to use the proper term East Turkistan when describing the homeland of the Uyghur and Turkic peoples.

"The name "Xinjiang" is a colonial terminology meaning "the New Territory," which was imposed on East Turkistan. However, East Turkistan's people intensely hate it. Furthermore, it wasn't until 1955 that East Turkistan was designated as the so-called 'Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region'," it added.

Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 per cent of Xinjiang's population, has long accused China's authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

About 7 per cent of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, has been incarcerated in an expanding network of "political re-education" camps, according to US officials and UN experts.

Classified documents known as the China Cables, accessed last year by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, threw light on how the Chinese government uses technology to control Uyghur Muslims worldwide.

However, China regularly denies such mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training. People in the internment camps have described being subjected to forced political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and denial of food and medicine, and say they have been prohibited from practising their religion or speaking their language.

Now, as Beijing denies these accounts, it also refuses to allow independent inspections into the regions, at the same time, which further fuels reports related to China's atrocities on the minority Muslims. (ANI)

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