Planet Watch
Cyclone Eloise

Mozambique disaster: climate ‘wake-up call’

More than 270,000 people have been affected by heavy winds and torrential rain since Tropical Cyclone Eloise made landfall in Mozambique. Schools and health centers were flattened and more than 20,000 people were displaced in the region, which is still recovering from the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai almost two years ago. Despite considerable investments in reconstruction and disaster prevention since Idai—one of southern Africa’s worst ever weather-related disasters—Mozambique remains among the world’s most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. Addressing the aftermath of Eloise, the UN’s resident coordinator in Mozambique, Myrta Kaulard, told reporters: “This is really a very bad wake-up call of how much Mozambique is exposed to climate. This yearly rendezvous with the cyclonic season is just too frequent for recovery to progress.” (Photo: World Meterological Organization via Twitter)

Planet Watch
United Nations

Treaty on prohibition of nuclear arms takes force

The first nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades has come into force, following its 50th ratification last October, which triggered the 90-day period required before the treaty entered into effect. The UN completed negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its New York headquarters in July 2017. The treaty constitutes “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination.” However, the US and the world’s eight other nuclear powers—Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—have not signed the treaty. (Photo: Pixabay)

South Asia
ahmadiyya

Pakistan: crackdown on internet ‘blasphemy’

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued notices to Google and Wikipedia censuring them for “disseminating sacrilegious content” through their platforms. The notices accused the these sites of hosting “misleading” content referencing the present khalifa (spiritual head) of Islam. The PTA specifically cited articles and search results allegedly portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, as the “present khalifa of Islam.” Additionally, the PTA demanded the platforms remove an “unauthentic” version of the Quran published by the Ahmadiyya community from the Google Play Store. The PTA warned the platforms “to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action” under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. (Image: Ahmadi Answers)

South Asia
hazara

Pakistan: Hazara massacre sparks hunger strike

Members of Pakistan’s Hazara people have launched a sit-in and public hunger strike after a massacre targeted the Shi’ite minority at a coal-field in a remote area of Balochistan province. Hundreds have been blocking a major thoroughfare through the provincial capital, Quetta. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid was sent in to meet with a delegation of the Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen, the organization leading the sit-in, but his offer of compensation to victims’ families was rebuffed. In the attack, armed men rounded up miners from worker housing at the coal-field. Those determined to be Hazara, 11 in all, were marched into the hills and summarily shot. Many had their throats slit or were otherwise mutilated. The local franchise of the “Islamic State” claimed responsibility for the massacre. Families of the victims are refusing to bury their loved ones, but have brought the bodies to the site of the sit-in, demanding the Balochistan government either arrest the killers or resign. (Photo via Twitter)

South Asia
Karima Baloch

Pakistani rights activist found slain in Toronto

Pakistani human rights activist Karima Baloch, 37, was found dead in Toronto, Canada. Baloch went missing the previous day. The Toronto Police stated that “officers have determined this to be a non-criminal death and no foul play is suspected.” But Baloch, from Pakistan’s restive Balochistan region, fled her country in 2015 because of threats on her life. As a campaigner with the Baloch Students’ Organization, she harshly criticized the Pakistani military and state over ongoing rights abuses in the region. She continued to campaign for the rights of people in Balochistan while in exile, and the threats against her did not stop after she left Pakistan. Baloch’s close friend, Lateef Johar Baloch, told reporters that she had recently received anonymous threats. (Photo via TimesNowNews, India)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Is Russia really backing the Taliban?

The kneejerk squawking of “McCarthyism” any time new revelations of Moscow misdeeds emerge is tiresome and dangerous. But there is reason for skepticism about the claims that Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offering them a bounty to kill US troops. This makes little sense in terms of the regional alliances: US ally Pakistan has been the traditional patron of the Taliban, while Russia’s closest ally in the region is Iran, which opposes the Taliban on sectarian grounds. The notion that Moscow would do anything to strengthen the hand of Sunni extremism in a country where it faced its own counterinsurgency quagmire in the ’80s, and which still borders its “near abroad,” stretches credulity. (Photo of abandoned Soviet tank in Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons)

Central Asia

India, China mirror each other in Islamophobia

Well, this is grimly hilarious. Genocide Watch has issued two “warning alerts” for India—one for Kashmir and the other for Assam, with Muslims held to be at grave imminent risk of persecution and mass detention in both. Pakistan’s semi-official media are jumping all over this news, which is hardly surprising. But Pakistan is closely aligned with China due to their mutual rivalry with India, so it is also hardly surprising that Pakistani media have failed to similarly jump on the Genocide Watch report on the Uighurs of Xinjiang—despite the fact that the group categorizes the situation there as “preparation” for genocide, a more urgent level than “warning.” China itself has issued a protest to India over the situation in Kashmir. Delhi shot back that Kashmir is an internal matter. Beijing has been similarly dismissive of India’s protests over the mass detention in Xinjiang.  (Photo via Bitter Winter)

South Asia
Kashmir

Militarization as Delhi prepares to dismantle Kashmir

India’s government has flooded the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir with troops and cut off internet access upon announcing the revocation of its constitutionally protected autonomy, and plans to divide the disputed territory into two new political entities with reduced power. Article 370 of India’s constitution grants Jammu & Kashmir a high degree of autonomy, a concession to the demands of the territory’s Muslim majority, many of whom favor independence or union with Pakistan. In addition to abrogating Article 370, Delhi announced plans for a bill to divide India-controlled Kashmir into two “union territories,” which have lesser powers of self-government than states. A reduced Jammu & Kashmir Union Territory would continue, at least, to have a legislature. But it would be separated from the Buddhist-majority region of Ladakh, which is to become its own union territory, without a legislature. Complicating matters further is that the populace of Ladakh itself is divided along sectarian and regional lines. News of the plan to separate Ladakh from Jammu & Kashmir was met with jubilation in the principal Buddhist town of Leh, but with foreboding in Kargil, an enclave within Ladakh inhabited by Ismaili Muslims.  (Map via Wikipedia)

Central Asia
Uighurs

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

In a perverse spectacle, the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, makes a great show of feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China’s “re-education camps.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century,” and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. It is hard to fault the Ughurs for being heartened by this international attention, but it is clear that they are being exploited for propaganda purposes. (Photo: Mvslim.com)

Watching the Shadows
Gitmo

SCOTUS lets stand Guantánamo detention

The Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case of Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, a Yemeni who has been held as an “enemy combatant” at Guantánamo since 2002. Al-Alwi was captured in Pakistan in late 2001, and the government concluded that he had fought in Afghanistan as part of a Qaeda-commanded unit. Al-Alwi denied this unsuccessfully during his original round of habeas corpus proceedings, and in 2015 initiated a new habeas case arguing that the nature of US involvement in Afghanistan had changed such that the use of military detention is no longer justified under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit disagreed, and the Supreme Court has now declined to review the appellate court’s conclusion. (Photo via Jurist)

South Asia

Pakistan: Taliban target Sufi shrine —again

At least 10 people were killed and 25 others injured in a suicide blast that targeted security forces guarding a famous Sufi shrine in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The attack, which came during the holy month of Ramadan, was apparently aimed at a police vehicle, and five officers are among the dead. The Data Darbar shrine, where Sufi saint Ali Hajveri is buried, was the target of a 2010 suicide attack that killed more than 40 worshipers, and has since been under heavy security. The new attack was claimed by the Hizbul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban. (Photo: Wikipedia)