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London Pride organisers apologise after protestors interrupt parade

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 

On Sunday, Pride in London organisers issued a public apology via their website condemning an unregistered lesbian protest group as "transphobic, hateful protestors who blocked the Pride". The annual lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGBT) Pride in the English capital ended with roughly 30 thousand people participating in this year's parade, organisers said.

A group of lesbians called "Get the L Out" protested in the parade with signs reading "Transactivism erases lesbians", "Lesbian Not Queer" and "Lesbian = Female homosexual". The group distributed leaflets which read, "The trans movement with the complicity of 'queer' LGBT politics is coercing lesbians to have sex with men. [...] We stand for the rights of lesbians to choose their sexual partners on the basis of their sex not their 'gender identity' [...] We condemn any pressure on lesbians [...] if they refuse so called 'transwomen' as potential sex partners".

Pride in London organisers in their official statement said, "The protest group showed a level of bigotry, ignorance and hate that is unacceptable. We reject what this group stands for. They do not share our values, which are about inclusion and respect and support for the most marginalised parts of our community."

The organisers called the "Get the L Out" group "transphobic". The group was not expelled from the pride as they did not commit a criminal offence, organisers said. By later report, Metropolitan Police allegedly refused to remove the "Get the L Out" group. On Twitter, to counter the group, the hashtag of "#LwiththeT" surfaced. Board member of TransPALS Patricia Curtis condemned the "hijack" of the Pride parade.

Condemning the incident, President of European Pride Organisers Association Kristine Garina said, "The Pride movement was begun by trans people and trans people must always be welcome at Pride". Garina continued, "Hate has no place at Pride, and we stand with the organisers who have promised to review what happened to try and ensure it cannot happen again."

This year's theme was "Pride Matters". Saturday's parade started at Portland Place at noon and ended at Whitehall, the BBC reported, with 30 thousand people participating in the march from 472 organisations. London mayor Sadiq Khan also participated in the pride parade. "In London, you're free to be who you are and you're free to love who you want to love, and it's really important we're never complacent", Khan said.


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Dutch senate votes in favour of face veil ban

Friday, June 29, 2018 

On Tuesday, the upper house of the Dutch parliament voted in favour of a face-veil ban which is applicable to places including public transport, government buildings, schools, and hospitals.

Banning Muslim women's clothings — Burqa and Niqab — has been discussed in the parliament for many years. The face veil ban was passed by the lower house in 2016. In 2015, the advisors of Parliament said wearing a burqa or niqab was guaranteed by the constitutional right to religious freedom.

The face veil ban makes it illegal for citizens to cover their face. Wearing helmets inside government buildings is also banned. DutchNews.nl reported the fine of violating the law is 400. The ban does not apply on the streets.

Calling the day historic, Senator Marjolein Faber-Van de Klashorst said it was "the first day to de-Islamise the Netherlands." "This is the first step and the next step is to close the mosques in the Netherlands", Van de Klashorst said. Senator Ruard Ganzevoort of the Green Party said, "It is completely disproportionate and the only effect will be that many of these women will stay at home even more [...] They will not have an opportunity to go to school."

The Christian Democratic Appeal party's minister Piet Hein Donner said, "Not everything for which you call on religious freedom, you can also do. This freedom must be limited in the public interest." ((nl))Dutch language: ‍Niet alles waarvoor je je op godsdienstvrijheid beroept, mag je ook maar doen. Deze vrijheid moet kunnen worden beperkt in het algemeen belang.Independent Senate's senator Henk ten Hoeve said, "This law will not change very much in practice, but gives a message that this form of Islam in our society actually does not fit, because it disrupts it." ((nl))Dutch language: ‍Deze wet zal in de praktijk niet heel veel veranderen, maar geeft toch als boodschap dat deze vorm van de islam in onze maatschappij eigenlijk niet past, omdat hij daar ontregelend werkt.

The Netherlands is a secular country, and according to reports, the number of Muslim women wearing a burqa or a niqab is between 200 to 400. Previously, the Danish parliament voted in favour of a similar face veil ban in May; it is scheduled to come under effect on August 1. France and Belgium had also introduced such bans.


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India: Punjab cabinet republishes ordinance approving capital punishment for rape of girls under age twelve

Friday, June 29, 2018 

On Wednesday, the cabinet of the Indian state of Punjab republished an ordinance which approved capital punishment for convicts of raping a girl under the age of twelve. In April, India's Union Cabinet approved the ordinance after nationwide protests that took place in various cities after an eight-year-old girl was gang-raped and killed in Kathua city in Jammu and Kashmir.

The State Cabinet approved the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance under Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Per the ordinance, rape convicts of girls below the age of twelve can now be sentenced to death. Further strengthening the ordinance from the Union Cabinet, punishment for rape convicts of girls below the age of sixteen is life imprisonment. The Union Cabinet had approved a twenty-year jail term which could be extended to life-long imprisonment. Prison term for convicts of rape of females above the age of sixteen has been increased from seven to ten years.

The ordinance also mentions mandatory completion of rape investigation within a period of two months. It also ruled out anticipatory bail for those accused of raping a girl below the age of sixteen.

The ordinance was republished in the Punjab Gazette. The Indian Union Cabinet had approved the ordinance on April 21, and a day later India's president Ram Nath Kovind also approved the ordinance.


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Serbian Football Association complain about Swiss footballers Xhaka, Shaqiri eagle salute celebration

Monday, June 25, 2018 

The Serbian Football Association, on Saturday, lodged a complaint with FIFA against Swiss footballers Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri for their eagle salute celebration. FIFA later launched an investigation for disciplinary actions against the two players.

In Friday's match, Switzerland defeated Serbia 2–1 with goals from Xhaka and Shaqiri. Both the players celebrated their goals by making hand gestures resembling the double-headed eagle on the Albanian national flag. Xhaka and Shaqiri are both of Kosovar-Albanian origin, and grew up in Switzerland. Kosovo is a former Serbian province which separated from the country in 2008. Serbia, however, does not recognise Kosovo as a sovereign state. A large proportion of the 1.8 million citizens of Kosovo are ethnic Albanians.

Xherdan Shaqiri's football boots had both an Albanian flag and a Swiss flag. After the match, the Serbian Football Association secretary general, Jovan Surbatovic, said he would raise the issues of the "boots, a question of several controversial flags and the celebration of both goals for Switzerland". Per FIFA guidelines, players found guilty of "provoking the general public" face a fine as well as suspension for up to two matches.

After the match, Granit Xhaka said, "Frankly, my opponents did not interest me at all [...] It was for my people, who always supported me. For those who did not neglect me, in my homeland, where my parents' roots are. These were purely emotions." Meanwhile Shaqiri, who scored the late winning goal said, "I can't discuss the gesture I am afraid. We are footballers, not politicians[...] Emotions sometimes take over footballers and there was a lot of emotion out there."

Swiss coach Vladimir Petković said, "I think we all together need to steer away from politics in football and we should focus on this sport as a beautiful game and something that brings people together."

Two Swiss government officials, Sports Minister Guy Parmelin and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis supported Xhaka and Shaqiri's celebration. Cassis said, "I have no doubt that you can feel patriotic emotions for the land which has taken you in without forgetting your roots".

FIFA has also launched an investigation for disciplinary action against Serbian supporters for "the display of political and offensive messages". Another action is being taken against Serbian Football Association president Slavisa Kokeza for asserting that the match officials, including German referee Felix Brych, were biased towards Switzerland.


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International Criminal Court gives Myanmar till July 27 to respond on Rohingya case

Sunday, June 24, 2018 

On Thursday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) gave Myanmar a deadline to respond to a request to extend their jurisdiction over the alleged crimes against the ethnic Rohingya. In the meeting behind closed doors in The Hague, Netherlands, ICC judges decided to set the deadline on July 27.

Myanmar's military is accused of illegal deportation of the minority Muslim community, as well as committing sex crimes, burning people and villages and killing people belonging to the Rohingya ethnic group. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called it "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing". Myanmar denies the accusations. Myanmar is not a member of the international tribunal and hence, ICC do not ordinarily have jurisdiction there.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people have been displaced from their home since August and nearly 700 thousand have settled in Bangladesh. Unlike Myanmar, Bangladesh is a member of the international tribunal where ICC does have jurisdiction.

In the decision, the ICC said, "Considering that the crime of deportation is alleged to have commenced on the territory of Myanmar, the chamber deems it appropriate to seek observations from the competent authorities of Myanmar on the prosecutor's request".


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Algeria blocks internet across nation to prevent cheating in diploma exams

Saturday, June 23, 2018 

In order to prevent cheating in high school diploma exams, the Algerian government ordered a series of two-hour nation-wide internet blockades, starting on Wednesday, reports from tech giant Oracle and Agence France-Presse confirmed.

Per the blockage, neither the cellular nor the wired data connections are to provide internet access during the exam hours. Social networking website Facebook has been blocked for the entire period. More than 500 thousand students had to appear for re-examination in June 2016 after question papers were leaked on Facebook. During the re-examinations, there were partial bans on Facebook and Twitter, and during that month, multiple employees working at the education ministry and the exam printers were arrested on suspicion of leaking the exams.

CCTV cameras have been installed at the locations where the exam question papers are printed, and metal detectors have been installed in over 2000 exam centres. According to various reports, around 700 thousand students are due to take the exams, whose results are expected to be declared a month later from July 22. Electronic gadgets are banned from the exam centres.

National education minister Nouria Benghabrit said the decision for the nation-wide blockade was "not comfortable" for the ministry, but it "should not passively stand in front of such a possible leak." According to internet service provider Algérie Télécom, the move was "aimed at ensuring the high school diploma tests run smoothly."

Other countries including India and Iraq also have a record of using internet blackouts as preventative measures against cheating during exams.


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India: Mehbooba Mufti resigns as Jammu Kashmir Chief Minister as Bharatiya Janata Party breaks alliance

Thursday, June 21, 2018 

On Tuesday, Mehbooba Mufti resigned as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir state after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) broke their three-year alliance with the People's Democratic Party (PDP). BJP's decision to dissolve the alliance came after a meeting chaired by BJP President Amit Shah.

The BJP National Secretary General Ram Madhav said, "It has become untenable for the BJP to continue in the alliance government." "We have tried to put a full stop to the ceasefire violations of Pakistan. PDP has not been successful in fulfilling its promises. Our leaders have been facing a lot of difficulties from PDP in developmental works in Jammu and Kashmir", he added. Military operations in Jammu and Kashmir were suspended for the Islamic holy month of Ramzan, but on Sunday, the national government decided to end the ceasefire.

Ram Madhav said, "The security scenario has deteriorated, causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life, free speech." Last week, on June 14, a journalist was killed in Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, the United Nations had released its first-ever report on Kashmir, calling on both India and Pakistan to prevent human rights violation in Kashmir region.

Following the announcement of BJP, Mehbooba Mufti tendered her resignation and said, "The alliance had a bigger motive. I have submitted my resignation to the governor and told him that we are not looking to explore other alliances." Of the 87 seats in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, PDP has 28 seats, while BJP has 25. Other parties declined to form an alliance. Ram Madhav said the party had "decided that the reins of power in the state be handed over to the Governor."

Per section 92 of the Jammu and Kashmir constitution, the governor assumes the functions of the state government as well as powers exercisable by any state authority. For the governor's control over the state, it needs to be formally approved by the President of India. On Wednesday, President Ram Nath Kovind, who is on an international trip, approved the transfer of control to Governor Narinder Nath Vohra after he signed files for the imposition of governor's rule when he arrived in Suriname. According to a spokesperson for the Home Affairs ministry, the president approved Governor's rule with "immediate effect". However, Vohra's term as Jammu and Kashmir governor is to end on June 25. Previously, in 2013, he received an extension from the national government to continue his role as the governor.

Jammu and Kashmir has previously been under governor's rule on eight occasions, most recently in 2016 after the death of then-Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.


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Iván Duque wins Colombia's presidential election

Wednesday, June 20, 2018 

On Sunday, 41-year-old conservative politician Iván Duque won the second round of Colombia's presidential election. Duque won 54% of the votes defeating Gustavo Petro, who received about 42%.

With this victory, president-elect Duque is to become the youngest President of Colombia since 1872. The first round of the election took place three weeks ago. According to reports, the voter turnout was 53%. After winning the election, Duque tweeted, saying: "I will give everything, all of my energy to unite the country. No more divisions, let's think of a country with everyone and for everyone!" ((es))spanish language: ‍Voy a entregar todas, absolutamente todas mis energías por unir a nuestro país. ¡No más divisiones, pensemos en un país con todos y para todos!

This was the first presidential election after the 2016 peace accords with the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which brought an end to more than five decades of conflict that resulted in more than 250 thousand deaths. In his victory speech, Duque spoke about having "peace with justice" as the current accords prevent the rebels from getting prison terms. After agreeing to the accords, about 7000 rebels had surrendered their weapons.

Previously, Duque worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in the US. In 2014, Duque was elected as a senator, serving for one term. Duque received support from former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe for the senator post. Uribe, who has strongly opposed the peace accords, has supported Duque for his election campaign.

Duque's opposition candidate Gustavo Petro had previously served as the mayor of the Colombian capital city, Bogotá. After the results were declared on Sunday, 58-year-old Petro tweeted about the result, saying, "What defeat[?] Eight million free Colombians taking a stand. There is no defeat here. For now we won't be the government." ((es))Spanish language: ‍Cuál derrota. Ocho millones de colombianos y colombianas libres en pie. Aquí no hay derrota. Por ahora no seremos gobierno.

Duque's vice-president-elect, Marta Lucía Ramírez, is to become the first female vice president of Colombia. Duque is scheduled to be sworn-in on August 7, for a four-year term, succeeding outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos.


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UN releases first-ever human rights report on Kashmir

Sunday, June 17, 2018 

On Thursday, the United Nations (UN) released its first-ever report for Kashmir, highlighting several incidents of alleged human rights violations in the last two years in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistani-administered areas of Kashmir, namely Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denounced the 49-page report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling it "selective", "malicious" and "fallacious". The report mentions human rights violations including torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violations, administrative detention, violations on the right to health and education, lack of access to justice and arbitrary arrests and detention among others.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said he would urge the UN Human Rights Council "to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violation in Kashmir". Hussein was not granted permission, by either India or Pakistan, to visit Kashmir for the report.

Per the report, Pakistan was asked to stop "misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent." In July 2016, Indian security forces killed the Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Muzaffar Wani, which led to protests in the Kashmir Valley. In response to the protests, Indian security forces fired metallic pellets, and their activities led to human rights violation, the UN report read. It also accused India of the unlawful killing of about 145 civilians since 2016. The report asked India to "fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law."

The MEA issued a statement which read: "India rejects the report. It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report. It is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative." Per the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir it "is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India" while Pakistan's constitution does not mention Azad Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan in its territories, but has a provision for relations with Pakistan subject to Jammu and Kashmir people's decision to acceede to Pakistan. The MEA added in their statement, "Cross-border terror and incitement are aimed at suppressing the will of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, disrupting its political and social fabric and undermining India's integrity".

Unlike India, the report was welcomed by Pakistan. In a press release, the Foreign Office said Pakistan "welcomes the proposal by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a Commission of Inquiry for [an] international investigation into human rights violations" in Indian-held Kashmir.

Directing towards Indian authorities, the report asked to "urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990; and, in the meantime, immediately remove the requirement for prior central government permission to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights violations in civilian courts".

"The report violates India's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression. We have repeatedly called upon Pakistan to vacate the occupied territories. The incorrect description of Indian territory in the report is mischievous, misleading and unacceptable. There are no entities such as 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir' and 'Gilgit-Baltistan'", India's External Affairs ministry said in their statement.

The report was welcomed by some activists and leaders in Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir human rights activist Khurram Parvez welcomed the UN report. Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wrote on Twitter, "People of Kashmir thank the U.N., especially the bold efforts of its HR commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, for its support to the right of self-determination."

The Kashmir-conflict between India and Pakistan has led to two wars since their independence in 1947. Between 1990 and 2017, there have been about 69,820 militancy-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, and more than 41 thousand people were killed. In 2017, there were over 800 ceasefire violations along the heavily-militarised Line of Control in Kashmir between India and Pakistan.


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Pakistani President signs bill to merge Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Saturday, June 2, 2018 

On Thursday, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain signed a bill to merge the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the neighbouring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

The "Federally Administered Tribal Areas Reforms Bill, 2018", seeking to end the colonial-era rules which are applicable to the five million people living in FATA, was approved by the federal lower house, the National Assembly, on May 24, the upper house — the Senate — on May 25 and the KP Provincial Assembly on May 27. The bill was presented to the president by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani on Tuesday for the president's assent. President Hussain's approval for the 25th Constitutional Amendment will remove mention of "FATA" from the Constitution.

Since Pakistani independence from British rule in 1947, the Pakistani President had been appointing "Political Agents" to govern FATA, who exercised near-complete autonomous control over the areas. These agents were responsible for providing government and judicial services under Article 247 of the Pakistani Constitution. Before January 12, when a bill extended the writ of both the Pakistani Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to FATA, the tribal areas were outside the jurisdiction of the Pakistani courts. Instead, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) was the applicable law of FATA. Per this regulation, dating back to the colonial era, collective punishment of a tribe was possible, and FATA citizens did not enjoy all the rights under the Constitution of Pakistan that other Pakistanis were entitled to.

Along with the purging of "FATA" from the Pakistani constitution, the merger bill affects Article 1 of the constitution which defines Pakistan's territories. The bill includes changes in the legislative area. KP is to have 55 seats in the country's National Assembly, and the Senate size is to be decreased to 96 from 104 by 2024. The bill also adds 21 new seats — sixteen general ones, four exclusively for women and one for a non-Muslim candidate — for the FATA citizens in the KP Provincial Assembly; it previously had 124 seats.

The president is yet to sign the 31st Amendment of the Constitution resulting in the usurpation of Article 247 of the Pakistani Constitution which lays down directions for administering the federally and the provincially administered tribal areas of the country. KP is to receive a "FATA Interim Governance Regulation" once the president signs the 31st Amendment. However, the removal of Article 247 would lead to Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) citizens losing certain privileges and incentives. Members of the KP Provincial Assembly from the Malakand division (the PATA) including Inayatullah Khan, Sardar Babak, Dr Haider Ali, and Muhammad Ali Shah expressed their dissatisfaction with the purging of incentives for PATA. Those assembly members also asked for exemption of taxes for PATA citizens. Outgoing Chief Minister of KP, Pervez Khattak said he would raise the concerns with the Federal Government, requesting a ten-year tax exemption for PATA citizens.

After approving the bill, the president said this move is to "open up an entire era of prosperity and development for its people and help them progress in all spheres of life". He added, saying, "The nation needs to work together to fully benefit from this historic opportunity."

The merger bill was proposed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and passed with 229–1, 71–5, and 92–7 in the National Assembly, Senate and the KP Provincial Assembly respectively. The Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F) and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party were the two parties to oppose the merger in both, provincial and national assemblies.


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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly votes to merge with Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 

On Sunday, the assembly of Pakistan's north-west province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) passed a bill to merge the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the province. The bill was passed with 92–7 votes, achieving more than the mandatory two-thirds majority.

Location of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (May 30, 2018).
Image: TUBS. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The "Federally Administered Tribal Areas Reforms Bill, 2018", which seeks to end the colonial-era rules which are applicable to the five million people living in FATA, was approved by the federal lower house, the National Assembly, on Thursday, and by the upper house — the Senate — on Friday. In the Provincial Assembly, Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi, who serves as Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, tabled the bill. Out of 124 total votes, the bill required at least 83 votes for a two-thirds majority. Only seven members of the opposition Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F) (JUI-F) voted against the bill.

Since Pakistani independence from British rule in 1947, the Pakistani President has appointed "Political Agents" to govern FATA, who exercise near-complete autonomous control over the areas. These agents are responsible for providing government and judicial services under Article 247 of the Pakistani Constitution. Before January 12, when a bill extended the writ of both the Pakistani Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court to FATA, the tribal areas were outside the jurisdiction of the Pakistani courts. Instead, the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) were the applicable law of FATA. Per the regulations dating back to the colonial era, collective punishment of a tribe could be declared and FATA citizens do not enjoy all the rights under the Constitution of Pakistan that other Pakistanis are entitled to.

KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said, "Under the FCR, the tribal people had suffered a lot, now, they would have the same rights that are being enjoyed by the people of the other parts of the country."

This bill, which now requires the approval of the Pakistani President, is expected to abolish Article 247 of the Pakistani Constitution which lays down directions for administering the federally and the provincially administered tribal areas of the country. If removed, Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) citizens would lose certain privileges and incentives. Members of KP Provincial Assembly from the Malakand division (the PATA) including Inayatullah Khan, Sardar Babak, Dr Haider Ali, and Muhammad Ali Shah expressed their dissatisfaction with the purging of incentives for PATA. Those assembly members also asked for exemption of taxes for PATA citizens. Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said he would raise the concerns with the Federal Government, requesting a ten-year tax exemption for PATA citizens.

About a hundred protesters protested in the morning in front of the Assembly building. Police officer Kamal Hussein said six police officials were injured in the clash as JUI-F members and supporters threw stones towards the policeman. Hussein added they used tear gas to disperse the crowd. A dozen JUI-F members were arrested in the clash. Some protestors were saying, "We will not let the FATA merger bill be approved". JUI-F's Maulana Lutfur Rehman said the tribal people should be given the chance to decide about the merger. According to the police report, the protestors also threatened to lock the gates of the Assembly building to prevent the assembly scheduled for 2 PM, local time. Lawmaker Shaukat Yousafzai condemned the protests.

Chief Minister Khattak said he "wondered why PkhMAP [Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party] chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai, whose party is just limited to certain districts of Balochistan, is opposing the merger of FATA into KP". The provincial assembly voted for the bill before the assembly was scheduled to dissolve on May 29 at 12 AM, local time, with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf administration reaching completion of its five-year term.

Per the Bill, the five million citizens of FATA, which consists of seven main tribal agencies and six smaller Frontier Regions, will gain the right to vote for representatives in the KP Provincial Assembly and the National Assembly.

The bill, which is expected to be the 31st amendment to the Pakistani Constitution, now requires the President's signature to pass. It was first cleared by the Provincial Assembly due to article 239 (4) of the Pakistani Constitution, which states that any bill which may lead to a constitutional amendment and alter provincial boundaries requires at least a two-thirds majority from the affected provincial assembly before it is presented to the President.


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Korean leaders Moon and Kim meet days after NK-US summit cancellation

Monday, May 28, 2018 

On Saturday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un held an unannounced meeting in the Joint Security Area straddling the Korean Demilitarized Zone, two days after United States President Donald Trump withdrew from the scheduled June 12 high-level meeting in Singapore.

Moon initiated the meeting after hearing Trump had withdrawn from the proposed summit with Kim. Trump's decision to withdraw came on Friday after increased tensions over scheduled military exercises, North Korean official Choe Son Hui referring to US Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy" and threatened nuclear action. Since then, both Pyongyang and the White House have issued statements indicating they are willing to have a meeting of some kind regardless.

Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists' Defense Posture Project referred to Trump's response as a "temper tantrum" and applauded Moon's "bold but risky" actions: "When Kim Jong-un was allowed to split the negotiations into separate tracks with Trump and Moon, he gained leverage over both," Mount told the public via Tweet. "... Trump says 'everybody plays games.' Moon Jae-in is not playing a game: he must keep his people safe from war. Each of Trump's whims shakes the walls of the Blue House." The Blue House is South Korea's presidential residence.

The meeting lasted roughly two hours. It was the second major meeting between Moon and Kim in as many months. In April, they met to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and plans for a formal peace treaty to replace the cease-fire that ended the Korean War on July 27, 1953, a measure that would require involving the US and China.

Although the White House stated their intent on withdrawing from the summit, North Korea's state-run news agency reported Friday the two leaders are still scheduled for further "high-level talks". North Korea explosively destroyed buildings and tunnels at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. The North Koreans invited international media observers to the demolitions, who later issued skeptical reports regarding the full extent of the demolition, according to NPR.


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Pakistan's National Assembly passes bill to merge Federally Administered Tribal Areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Sunday, May 27, 2018 

On Thursday, Pakistan's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, voted in favour of merging the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the neighbouring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The bill, subject to approval by the Senate, the KP assembly, and the president, would ensure FATA is governed by the federal as well as the provincial government. The Senate passed the bill on Friday by a two-thirds majority, with 71 voting in favour and five opposing the merger.

The bill was passed by a 229 to 1 majority by the 342-member National Assembly in Islamabad. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi thanked the opposition parties for their support. The Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F) (JUI-F) were the only two parties to oppose the merger. Opposition leader Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party said, "The tribal people want immediate justice just like the system that we have in KP".

Since Pakistan's 1947 independence from British rule, FATA has been governed by "Political Agents" appointed by the Pakistani President. These agents exercise near-complete autonomous control over the area. About five million people live in the seven districts — Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, Orakzai as well as North and South Waziristan — which constitute FATA. Political agents are responsible for providing governmental services and judiciary under Article 247 of the Pakistani Constitution.

Before January 12, when a bill extended to FATA the writ of the Pakistani Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court, the tribal area was out of the jurisdiction of the Pakistani courts. Collective punishment of a tribe can be declared under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, the code applicable to the seven districts. Per the rules dating back to the colonial era, FATA citizens do not enjoy all the rights under the Constitution of Pakistan that other Pakistanis are entitled to.

Prime Minister Abbasi said, "This is the start of a process, not the end of one. We need to gain the trust of the people of FATA, and that trust will not come just through words". He later added, "We have to give the people of FATA the same schools, the same colleges, the same universities, the same hospitals, the same roads and the system as is available to everyone else in Pakistan. There should be no difference there."

If the bill is passed, it is expected to change the first article of the Pakistani Constitution, which defines the territory of Pakistan, listing FATA separately from the other provinces. Article 246, which defines the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, would be modified and Article 247, which gives the guidelines to administer all the tribal areas including FATA, is expected to be removed once the merger bill is approved. The bill grants FATA citizens the right to elect their representatives in national and provincial assemblies.

The bill states the National Assembly seats are to be reduced from 342 to 336; the Senate is to be reduced from 104 to 96 seats. The change of the number of seats in both the houses of parliament occurs in Articles 51 and 59 of the Constitution which direct the number of seats available for those houses. The bill also says FATA is to hold 21 seats in the Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly.

Militant groups Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda have operated in FATA for years, and military actions were carried out since 2008 to usurp militant groups' control over the area and restore Pakistani control.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement party leader Dr Farooq Sattar called for a referendum to make FATA a separate province and explained their support for the current bill as "for the sake of political unity". "We fear that if Fata is merged with KP, it will get difficult to create a new province in the future", Sattar commented. Calling it a "black day", JUI-F's representative Jamaluddin said the parties had voted to "usurp the rights of the people of Fata".

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said, "Today this house has approved a historic bill, which will have very positive effects for Pakistan." The merger bill needs to be approved by at least two thirds of the members of KP's assembly. Per Article 239 (4) of the constitution, any bill which may lead to constitutional amendment and alter provincial boundaries requires at least a two-thirds majority from the provincial assembly before it is presented to the President.


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US National Football League to fine teams if athletes kneel during national anthem

Friday, May 25, 2018 

On Wednesday, the US National Football League (NFL) announced adopting a new policy of fining the clubs if their athletes knelt during the national anthem. Per the policy, athletes who do not wish to stand for the anthem are now permitted to stay in the locker room. Under the new policy, the commissioner can "impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem."

According to commissioner Roger Goodell, in their meeting in Atlanta NFL owners reached a unanimous decision. In the statement, Goodell said, "It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic [...] This is not and was never the case." Per the earlier policy, athletes had to be present on the sidelines of the field during the anthem.

Since 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the pre-match national anthem in a protest against racial discrimination, police brutality and shooting of African-Americans by policemen, multiple athletes have joined the protests taking a knee when the US national anthem — The Star-Spangled Banner — was played. Kaepernick then said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour".

The NFL Players Association said the NFL did not consult them before announcing the policy. The day before the NFL's statement, the clubs agreed to donate 90 million US dollars (USD) to initiatives for social justice.

Eric Reid, a former teammate of Kaepernick who also took a knee during the national anthem, said, "I needed to use a platform to speak out for other people who didn't have a voice. So I joined Colin in protesting the issues in this country, which include police brutality, systemic oppression of black and brown people". He added, "This is not about disrespecting the military or the anthem. This is a way for me to bring awareness around these issues in our country."

The new policy now allows the clubs to devise their own provisions for fining or suspending the players. New York Jets' chairperson Christopher Johnson said, "There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that's just something I'll have to bear."

Owner of San Francisco 49ers Jed York abstained from voting for the NFL policy in Atlanta.

Former US president Barack Obama, in September 2016, said Kaepernick was "exercising his constitutional right". Current US president Donald Trump, in September 2017, called the athletes who knelt during the national anthem unpatriotic and "disgraceful". Trump also said, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired.'"

Regarding the new policy, Malcolm Jenkins, a defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles, said, "What NFL owners did today was thwart the players' constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country. Everyone loses when voices get stifled." His teammate Chris Long, who donated USD one million to charity last season, wrote on Twitter, "This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It's also a fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused."

Retired quarterback Sage Rosenfels tweeted saying, "I hope the NFL decides to completely stop all concession stand sales during the anthem as well. We wouldn't want people buying a $10 beer and an $8 hot dog during our sacred anthem. All TV camera crews must stop filming and direct attention at the flag too. Just seems fair." He later added, "Forced patriotism is the opposite of freedom."

About the new policy, Trump told Fox News, "You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country".

The NFL Player's Association said the union will "review the new 'policy' and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement."

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Stacey Abrams becomes first black woman to gain major U.S. party nomination for governor of Georgia

Friday, May 25, 2018 

On Tuesday night, Stacey Abrams became the United States Democratic Party's candidate for governor of the state of Georgia, the first black woman nominated for this office. If she wins the election scheduled to be held in November, she would be the first woman governor of Georgia and the first black woman elected governor of any state in U.S. history.

Abrams in 2012.
Image: Kerri Battles, LBJ School.

"I will be the governor who brings more than jobs to Georgia," Abrams said in her acceptance speech, "together, we can build career pipelines in renewable energy. We can spur creativity through a growing entertainment industry, and we can increase the strength of our trade unions to grow an economy that lifts every Georgian."

In the primary election, 76.5% of participating registered Democrats and eligible independents voted for Abrams over her opponent, Stacey Evans, to a total of 423,163 votes. Evans won 23.5%. Ahead of the primary, Abrams had announced a plan for winning the scheduled November election that focused on mobilizing and motivating liberal voters who would otherwise stay home on election day. Evans, who is from Georgia's rural northwest, sought to win over the contested moderate vote from the Republicans.

Adrianne Shropshire of BlackPAC, a group that supported Abrams, attributed her victory to strategy. "Stacey Abrams won this election because she reached out and engaged communities of color, particularly black voters, on the issues that they care about. This historic victory is a model for candidates all across the country." After the election, Evans immediately announced her support for Abrams.

Abrams is originally from Gulfport, Mississippi, but moved to Atlanta, Georgia, as a youth. She holds three degrees, including a law degree from Yale Law School and has worked as a lawyer and entrepreneur as well as serving in the Georgia state legislature. Her accomplishments include being the first woman to lead a major party in the Georgia General Assembly and being the first black person to head the Georgia House of Representatives.

Abrams stated her plans on her campaign website assuming victory in the November election: "As Georgia's next governor, I will prioritize economic mobility as key to ensuring our state is known as a place for prosperity. Poverty and inequality stand in the way of economic growth for our state through higher social costs, lost earnings, and weakened competitiveness." Specifics included an earned income tax credit, expansion of protections for Georgians with disabilities, and ending workplace discrimination.

The other major party in this election is the Republican Party. The governorship has been held by Republicans since 2003, but previously Georgia has a long history of governors from the Democratic Party.

Abrams' opponent for November has yet to be determined. The current front runners for the Republican nomination for governor are Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, scheduled for a runoff election on July 24.


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