Rights groups urge Bangladesh not to ship Rohingya to island

Relatives of Rohingya refugees gather outside the transit camp before the start of relocation of refugees, in Ukhia on Dec. 3, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 03 December 2020

Rights groups urge Bangladesh not to ship Rohingya to island

  • Police escorted the refugees in 10 buses from Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar for the journey to Chittagong port and then on to Bhasan Char

DHAKA: Human rights groups urged Bangladesh on Thursday to stop its plan to ship thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote island as officials said the first group of 400 could leave later in the day.
Police escorted the refugees in 10 buses from Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar for the journey to Chittagong port and then on to Bhasan Char – a flood-prone Bay of Bengal island that emerged from the sea 20 years ago.
Bangladesh says moving refugees who agree to go to the island will ease chronic overcrowding in its camps which are home to more than 1 million Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority who have fled neighboring Myanmar.
“The authorities should immediately halt relocation of more refugees to Bhashan Char,” Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner Saad Hammadi said in a statement.
US-based advocacy group Refugees International said the plan was “short-sighted and inhumane” while the Fortify Rights Group said the relocations may be “coerced and involuntary” and should cease immediately.
Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said the relocation was voluntary.
“They are going there happily. No one is forced. The government has taken all measures to deal with disasters, including their comfortable living and livelihood.”
A senior foreign ministry official said the refugees were being moved because there was little prospect of repatriating them to Myanmar.
Bangladeshi officials said the first 400 of 2,500 refugees would leave on Thursday evening, depending on the tide. The journey takes several hours.
More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar in 2017 following a military-led crackdown that the United Nations has said was executed with genocidal intent. Myanmar denies genocide and says its forces were targeting Rohingya militants who attacked police posts.
A senior Bangladeshi official has said housing was built for 100,000 people on the island and authorities want to relocate them during the November to April dry season when the sea is calm.
The United Nations said in a statement it had been given “limited information” about the relocations and was not involved in preparations.
Omar Faruq, one Rohingya leader who had been on a government trip, said the island was “truly beautiful,” with better facilities than in the refugee camps and that he would be ready to go, but that most people did not want to go there.
“We don’t want to end up living an isolated prison-like life,” said Nurul Amin, one Rohingya refugee who was not on the list.
More than 300 refugees were brought to the island earlier this year after several months at sea in an attempt to flee Bangladesh. Rights groups say they are being held against their will and have complained of human rights violations.


Pakistanis share tea-rrific memes on anniversary of Abhinandan's fantastic cuppa

Updated 19 min 3 sec ago

Pakistanis share tea-rrific memes on anniversary of Abhinandan's fantastic cuppa

  • Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on Feb. 27, 2019 and soon released by Pakistan in a goodwill gesture
  • Video in which he said he had been treated well and 'the tea was fantastic' became a viral sensation

RAWALPINDI: Pakistani Twitterati did not miss the chance on Saturday to share new memes of an Indian pilot who two years ago became a social media sensation as he praised Pakistan Army officers for "fantastic tea."

Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on Feb. 27, 2019 when Pakistan shot down his jet for violating its airspace. He was soon handed over to India in a goodwill gesture, but a video in which he said he had been treated well and "the tea was fantastic" stayed with Pakistanis forever.

In remembrance of Abhinandan's tea, celebratory trends emerged on Pakistani Twitter, followed by new memes and laughs:  #FantasticTeaDay, #HappySurpriseDayIndia, #WorldsBiggestTeaParty.

Retired Pakistan Air Force veteran pilot Air Marshal Shahid Lateef pointed out that Abhinandan's tea was not only fantastic but also expensive as it cost him his MiG-21 jet.

 

 

Pilot and entertainer Fakhr-e-Alam commemorated the day by tweeting out a tongue-in-cheek promotion of Pakistani hospitality and tea.

 

 

Fantastic tea was also combined with another major trend of the day — the ongoing Pakistan Super League — on the cricket event's "strategic timeout" poster.

 

 

Another Twitter user shared a shot of a trail of teacups, writing: “Let’s attract Indian pilots.”

 

 

As four trees fell on the Pakistani side during the Indian operation of Abhinandan was part, on Fantastic Tea Day comedian Ali Gur Pir released an entire track in honor of the fallen wooden heroes.

 

 

As Abhinandan memes continue to entertain Pakistanis, Twitter user Sadaf Ikram shared a photo of the pilot's portrait being used in advertisements and thank him for “fueling creative thinking" in Pakistan.

 


 

 


Pakistan security forces kill 2 militants in southern Sindh province

Updated 36 min 19 sec ago

Pakistan security forces kill 2 militants in southern Sindh province

  • Officials say the slain militants were involved in attacks on police and security forces in South Waziristan and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • The two men entered Sindh province in recent days and had been under surveillance of security agencies

MULTAN: Pakistani counterterrorism police and secret service officials raided a militant hideout Saturday, killing two militants accused of involvement in attacks on security forces, an official said.
Shahid Solangi, a counterterrorism officer, said the early morning raid took place in the Patni area of the city of Sukkur in southern Sindh province. He said the militants attempted to escape and opened fire on officers, triggering a shootout. Solangi said two militants belonging to the Noor-e-Islam group of the Pakistani Taliban were killed.
Solangi said the slain militants were involved in attacks on police and security forces in South Waziristan and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest. He said the two men entered Sindh province in recent days and had been under surveillance of security agencies.
Pakistani militants have in recent months stepped up attacks on security forces in the former tribal regions in northwest and southwestern Balochistan province, raising concerns that insurgents are regrouping in various parts of the country.


NYSE begins move to delist Chinese state oil producer CNOOC

Updated 43 min 17 sec ago

NYSE begins move to delist Chinese state oil producer CNOOC

  • The Trump administration had last year moved against certain Chinese companies that Washington said were owned or controlled by the Chinese military in an effort to ramp up pressure on Beijing

The New York Stock Exchange on Friday decided to begin formal delisting of Chinese state oil giant CNOOC Ltd. based on an update to an executive order signed by former US President Donald Trump in November last year.
Prohibitions on CNOOC will take effect on March 9, 60 days after the company was added to the list that prohibits US investments, according to a guidance issued by the Treasury Department on Jan. 27.
However, the exchange did not disclose a target date for the completion of the delisting.
The Trump administration had last year moved against certain Chinese companies that Washington said were owned or controlled by the Chinese military in an effort to ramp up pressure on Beijing.
The NYSE said CNOOC has the right to appeal the delisting decision. The exchange will include any appeal it receives in its application to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which will be submitted on completion of all procedures.
CNOOC could not be immediately reached for comment.


McDonald’s considers selling part of digital startup Dynamic Yield

Updated 58 min 3 sec ago

McDonald’s considers selling part of digital startup Dynamic Yield

  • Dynamic Yield is run as a standalone company within McDonald’s
  • The startup, whose customers include IKEA and Lacoste, has businesses with more than 300 brands globally

McDonald’s Corp. is exploring selling part of Israeli artificial intelligence startup Dynamic Yield Ltd, which it acquired two years ago in an attempt to boost online marketing efforts, the company said on Friday.
Dynamic Yield, run as a standalone company within McDonald’s, personalizes customers’ experience by changing offerings on the chain’s Drive Thru menu displays, according to time of day, weather, customer traffic and trending choices.
The startup, whose customers include IKEA and Lacoste, has businesses with more than 300 brands globally.
“The potential sale of the non-McDonald’s part of our business has been discussed from the outset and now feels like the right time to explore that possibility,” its chief executive, Liad Agmon, said in a statement.
The Chicago-based hamburger chain said it was considering a sale of only the part of Dynamic Yield that works with other companies with no timeline set for the deal.
McDonald’s said Dynamic Yield’s technology was used across many markets, adding, “We’re continuing to deploy to more.”


Pakistan experts: Religiosity fostering rise in militancy

Updated 27 February 2021

Pakistan experts: Religiosity fostering rise in militancy

  • Analysts say TTP has major strength for mass-casualty operations across former tribal areas, Swat, Balochistan and Punjab 
  • Militancy has spiked in recent weeks, with at least a dozen military and paramilitary men killed in ambushes, attacks and operations

ISLAMABAD: Militant attacks are on the rise in Pakistan amid a growing religiosity that has brought greater intolerance, prompting one expert to voice concern the country could be overwhelmed by religious extremism.
Pakistani authorities are embracing strengthening religious belief among the population to bring the country closer together. But it’s doing just the opposite, creating intolerance and opening up space for a creeping resurgence in militancy, said Mohammad Amir Rana, executive director of the independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.
“Unfortunately, instead of helping to inculcate better ethics and integrity, this phenomenon is encouraging a tunnel vision” that encourages violence, intolerance and hate, he wrote recently in a local newspaper.
“Religiosity has begun to define the Pakistani citizenry.”
Militant violence in Pakistan has spiked: In the past week alone, four vocational school instructors who advocated for women’s rights were traveling together when they were gunned down in a Pakistan border region. A Twitter death threat against Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai attracted an avalanche of trolls. They heaped abuse on the young champion of girls education, who survived a Pakistani Taliban bullet to the head. A couple of men on a motorcycle opened fire on a police check-post not far from the Afghan border killing a young police constable.
In recent weeks, at least a dozen military and paramilitary men have been killed in ambushes, attacks and operations against militant hideouts, mostly in the western border regions.
A military spokesman this week said the rising violence is a response to an aggressive military assault on militant hideouts in regions bordering Afghanistan and the reunification of splintered and deeply violent anti-Pakistan militant groups, led by the Tehreek-e-Taliban. The group is driven by a religious ideology that espouses violence to enforce its extreme views.
Gen. Babar Ifitkar said the reunified Pakistani Taliban have found a headquarters in eastern Afghanistan. He also accused hostile neighbor India of financing and outfitting a reunified Taliban, providing them with equipment like night vision goggles, improvised explosive devises and small weapons.
India and Pakistan routinely trade allegations that the other is using militants to undermine stability and security at home.
Security analyst and fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Asfandyar Mir, said the reunification of a splintered militancy is dangerous news for Pakistan.
“The reunification of various splinters into the (Tehreek-e-Taliban) central organization is a major development, which makes the group very dangerous,” said Mir.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the 2012 shooting of Yousafzai. Its former spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, who mysteriously escaped Pakistan military custody to flee to the country, tweeted a promise that the Taliban would kill her if she returned home.
Iftikar, in a briefing of foreign journalists this week, said Pakistani military personnel aided Ehsan’s escape, without elaborating. He said the soldiers involved had been punished and efforts were being made to return Ehsan to custody.
The government reached out to Twitter to shut down Ehsan’s account after he threatened Yousafzai, although the military and government at first suggested it was a fake account.
But Rana, the commentator, said the official silence that greeted the threatening tweet encouraged religious intolerance to echo in Pakistani society unchecked.
“The problem is religiosity has very negative expression in Pakistan,” he said in an interview late Friday. “It hasn’t been utilized to promote the positive, inclusive tolerant religion.”
Instead, successive Pakistani governments as well as its security establishments have exploited extreme religious ideologies to garner votes, appease political religious groups, or target enemies, he said.
The 2018 general elections that brought cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan to power was mired in allegations of support from the powerful military for hard-line religious groups.
Those groups include the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, whose single-point agenda is maintaining and propagating the country’s deeply controversial blasphemy law. That law calls for the death penalty for anyone insulting Islam and is most often used to settle disputes. It often targets minorities, mostly Shiite Muslims, who makeup up about 15% of mostly Sunni Pakistan’s 220 million people.
Mir, the analyst, said the rise in militancy is a complicated conundrum. It has benefited from state policies that have been either supportive or ambivalent toward militancy as well as from sustained exposure of the region to violence. Most notable are the protracted war in neighboring Afghanistan and the simmering tensions between hostile neighbors India and Pakistan, two countries that possess a nuclear weapons’ arsenal.
Mir and Rana both pointed to the Pakistani government’s failure to draw radical thinkers away from militant organizations, as groups that seemed at least briefly to eschew a violent path have returned to violence and rejoined the TTP.
Iftikar said the military has stepped up assaults on the reunited Pakistani Taliban, pushing the militants to respond, but only targets they can manage, which are soft targets.
But Mir said the reunited militants pose a greater threat.
“With the addition of these powerful units, the TTP has major strength for operations across the former tribal areas, Swat, Balochistan, and some in Punjab,” he said. “Taken together, they improve TTP’s ability to mount insurgent and mass-casualty attacks.”