NEW DELHI: India’s top female wrestlers led a candlelight march of nearly 1,000 protesters in the capital on Tuesday demanding the resignation and arrest of the president of the wrestling federation for allegedly sexually harassing young athletes, one of whom was a minor.
Carrying India’s national flag, they marched to India Gate, a monument close to the country’s parliament building. A strong presence of police accompanied them on the marching route.
The protesters have been staging a protest in the center of New Delhi for nearly a month, amid a brutal heat wave, while foregoing their training schedules. Two Olympics medalists, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik, are part of the protests and have threatened to hand back their medals if no action is taken against Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The protests have grown with many members of opposition parties and farmer unions taking up the wrestlers’ cause. Most of the Indian wrestlers come from the northern agricultural states of Haryana and Punjab.
They accused Singh, a 66-year-old powerful lawmaker representing the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, of sexually harassing seven young female wrestlers.
Singh has denied the accusations and called the protests “politically motivated” by the opposition Congress party.
Vinesh Phogat, who has won wrestling medals at the world championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, claimed in January that several coaches have exploited female wrestlers at the behest of the WFI president.
Indian police are investigating the allegations of sexual harassment against Singh, and he has been questioned in the case. India’s Supreme Court has also acknowledged that the case involves “serious allegations of sexual harassment,” but it has been met with silence from the ruling party leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After their initial protest in January, Indian Sports Minister Anurag Singh Thakur asked the president of the federation to step aside and help in carrying out the probe. He also said a committee would be set up to investigate the allegations and a report will be released in four weeks.
Singh continues to head the federation and no report has been released in the months since. The women returned to their protest in April and have said they will not move until Singh is arrested.
“Our fight for justice seems like it has been forever because the wheels of justice have moved very slowly,” Phogat wrote in The Indian Express newspaper Tuesday.
The case has again highlighted the #MeToo movement in India, which picked up pace in 2018 when a spate of actresses and writers flooded social media with allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Thursday called former Prime Minister Imran Khan an “instigator” of rioters who attacked state assets and military installations to protest the opposition politician’s arrest earlier this month, and did not rule out his trial being held before a military court.
Khan’s detention in a land fraud case on May 9 was met by days-long violent protests by his supporters, who torched private and government cars and buildings, including military facilities.
Many of Khan’s closest associates, as well as thousands of supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, were subsequently arrested, and the army announced in the aftermath that those found involved in the violence would be tried under relevant Pakistani laws, including the Army Act.
The government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also said this week it was considering a ban on the PTI.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on Thursday, the Pakistani defense minister said only those suspects against whom “absolutely foolproof or ironclad evidence” of instigating attacks on military installations was found would be tried under army laws.
“There will be very, very few people who will be tried under that law,” he said.
“People, maybe two or three or four people, who were leading or who were instigating those people.”
The minister’s remarks came as a Pakistani court in the eastern city of Lahore on Thursday handed 16 civilians over to the military for trial over their suspected involvement in the pro-Khan violent protests.
The defense minister also did not rule out the possibility of Khan being tried under the Army Act and facing a military court.
“He is an instigator,” Asif said. “Evidence has to be evaluated, and the lawyers or legal advisers of the government will look into it.”
In response to his statement on Wednesday that the government was considering a ban on the PTI, Asif likened the violence of May 9 to 9/11 in the US, saying the question of banning the party had come up because of the “unimaginable” attacks on military properties.
“It is not expected of a Pakistani, or a Pakistani political party, or Pakistani group, never — I could at least not imagine that supporters of a political party led by its leader (Khan), or rather manipulated by the leader, their political followers, he told them to attack military installations,” Asif said.
However, he added that parliament would be consulted if the government decided to start the process of banning the PTI.
“There is a process (of banning a party), of course, whenever this process starts, if it starts, we will bring it to the parliament and we will try to, and obviously, there could be judicial procedure also for that,” the minister said.
Asif added that he personally was not in favor of banning political parties, “but everyone has a red line, even individuals like me or institutions or countries, and when those red lines are crossed, one has to react to that.”
Commenting on key aides of Khan quitting his party, the minister ruled out that this was an attempt to “dismantle” the PTI.
Khan has said his associates are being forced out under duress from the government and the military in a maneuver to dismantle the PTI before elections scheduled later this year.
This week, in what was widely seen as a softening of his stance, Khan announced he was willing to constitute a committee to hold talks with “powerful people,” a likely reference to the military, with whom Khan is locked in an ever-worsening standoff.
The cricketing legend-turned-politician came to power in a 2018 general election widely believed to have been rigged in his favor by the military — both deny the charge — but has since had a very public falling out with the army after he was removed last April in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence he blames on a plot by the US, the military and his political rivals in Pakistan. All deny the claim.
“We need a broader consensus between different powerhouses which are part of our ruling elite or power structure,” Asif said when asked if the government was ready to take up Khan’s latest offer for talks, adding that the judiciary, military establishment, parliament and political parties, including Khan’s PTI, should be involved in forging the consensus.
“There has to be a national consensus on most of the issues,” the defense minister said. “Not consensus between the politicians or one or two other institutions like judiciary or establishment, we have to have a new social contract.”
CHICAGO: Glacier National Park police formally confirmed on Friday the identity of the victim of Monday’s Avalanche Creek drowning as Saudi citizen Atheer Abdulrahman S. Alquahtani.
The victim was a University of Kansas student residing in Lawrence, Kansas, who left on a sightseeing road trip when her school year ended.
Alquahtani fell off a rocky overhang on Monday into the waters of Avalanche Creek in Montana and was swept into the gorge, police said in a statement on Friday.
Park police added that witnesses spotted Alquahtani in the creek. Bystanders waded into the water and pulled her out and immediately began CPR. Witnesses contacted park rangers.
A medical team was mobilized after learning about the tragedy and Alquahtani was declared dead by personnel at the side of the creek banks.
Friends said that Alquahtani had just finished the first year of her master’s degree at the University of Kansas.
They added that she was on a road trip tour of national parks to celebrate completing her first year of studies.
Friends described her to the sheriff’s police as “a risk taker” who “loved getting in and being near water.”
Law enforcement investigators said there were no indications of foul play. The area where the incident occurred is off-trail and many visitors take the same risk. Water-related incidents are the No. 1 cause of death at Glacier National Park.
Visitors are asked to take extra precautions when approaching areas with water, especially during spring, park officials said.
DUBAI: President Vladimir Putin told his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in call on Friday that Russia was open to dialogue over Ukraine, the Kremlin said, shortly after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed a Chinese peace envoy to Moscow.
Russia has repeatedly said it was open to resuming peace talks with Kyiv, which stalled a few months after Russia invaded Ukraine early last year, and has welcomed mediation efforts from both Brazil and China.
But it has insisted that any negotiations must be based on “new realities,” meaning its declared annexation of four Ukrainian provinces that it largely or partly controls — a condition unacceptable to Kyiv.
China for its part signed a “no limits” partnership with Russia less than three weeks before the invasion, and has not only refrained from criticizing Moscow but also dramatically expanded its Russian energy imports since the start of the war.
It has put forward a 12-point plan for peace in Ukraine that involves declaring a cease-fire but does not stipulate that Russia should withdraw from any of the territory it has seized.
In his meeting with Li, Lavrov expressed gratitude for China’s “balanced position” and willingness to play a positive role, his ministry said.
The Chinese proposal has drawn skepticism from the West, with NATO saying Beijing — whose president, Xi Jinping, made a high-profile state visit to Moscow in March — lacked credibility as a mediator.
Lula has also pitched himself as a peace broker and proposed, in line with Brazil’s tradition of non-intervention and neutrality, that a group of nations not involved in the war should engage both Russia and Ukraine in talks.
“I reiterated Brazil’s willingness, along with India, Indonesia and China, to talk to both sides of the conflict in pursuit of peace,” he tweeted.
Lula has condemned the invasion but he irritated Washington — and pleased Moscow — last month when he suggested the West had been “encouraging” war by arming Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not meet Lula when both men attended a Group of Seven summit in Japan last weekend, despite finding time to speak to an array of other national leaders.
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev, a hawkish senior ally of Putin’s, was quoted on Friday as saying Russia could not trust any truce with Ukraine, and would therefore have to destroy the “very nature” of power in Kyiv.
UNITED NATIONS: A deal allowing the safe wartime export of grain and fertilizer from Ukrainian Black Sea ports has not yet resumed full operations, the United Nations said on Friday, having come to a halt before Russia’s decision last week to extend it.
The pact called the Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Turkiye last July with Russia and Ukraine to try to ease a global food crisis aggravated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, covers three ports, but no ships have been authorized to travel to Pivdennyi (Yuzhny) port since April 29, the UN said.
The United Nations and Turkiye “are working closely with the rest of the parties with the aim to resume full operations … and lift all impediments that obstruct operations and limit the scope of the Initiative,” the UN said in a statement.
Ukraine accused Russia on Tuesday of effectively cutting Pivdennyi port out of the Black Sea deal as Russia complained that it had been unable to export ammonia via a pipeline to Pivdennyi under the agreement.
The UN said on Friday that the Black Sea deal also provides for the exports of fertilizer, including ammonia, but “there have been no such exports so far.”
Under the Black Sea grain export agreement, a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul — made up of officials from the Ukraine, Russia, Turkiye and the UN — authorizes ships and conducts inbound and outbound inspections of the vessels.
“According to information shared by the Ukrainian delegation with the parties at the JCC, there are 54 vessels waiting to move to Ukrainian ports. Out of these, 11 applications have been shared with the JCC for registration,” the UN said.
No new ships were registered on Thursday by the JCC, but two were agreed on Friday, the UN said, adding that there are currently 13 vessels loading in Ukrainian ports — six in Chornomorsk and seven in Odesa.
It also said that the average number of daily inbound and outbound inspections had dropped to 3.2 during May — the lowest level since operations began in August.
Russia signaled on Thursday that if demands to improve its grain and fertilizer exports are not met then it will not extend the deal beyond July 17. It made the same threat and demands in March, before agreeing last week to renew it for 60 days.
Russia appears to have prioritized two specific demands: restarting the pipeline to transport Russian ammonia to the Ukraine’s Pivdennyi port for export to global markets; and reconnecting Russia’s agricultural bank, known as Rosselkhozbank, to the SWIFT international payment network.
To help convince Russia to allow Ukraine to resume Black Sea grain exports, a three-year pact was also struck last July in which the UN agreed to help Moscow carry out its food and fertilizer shipments.
LONDON: The British animal charity that was accused of evacuating cats and dogs over people from Afghanistan has returned to the country, with founder Pen Farthing calling on the UK government to accept the Taliban’s rule.
The Telegraph reported that Farthing, a former Royal Marine and founder of Nowzad, has been back to Afghanistan five times since the Taliban takeover, and has described the country’s regime as “friendly.”
Nowzad now runs a small center for pet care in Kabul and carries out vaccination and sterilization campaigns for cats and dogs.
The charity also hosts a sanctuary for donkeys and horses in the Afghan capital.
Farthing told The Economist that the Taliban has allowed the charity to “continue with our mission objectives,” describing communication with the regime as “always polite and friendly.”
He urged the UK and other Western countries to accept the Taliban’s rule, adding: “They are back in power because we put them back in power.”
Nowzad and Farthing were at the center of controversy during the Western evacuation of Kabul amid the Taliban takeover.
The charity airlifted 94 stray animals out of the Afghan capital on one of the last flights from the country following a high-profile appeal by Farthing.
As well as the animals, 67 Nowzad staff and family members also left the country for Pakistan, later making the journey to Britain.
Critics accused the charity chief of favoring animals over people, amid desperate scenes showing the masses of the Afghan public in Kabul airport attempting to board emergency flights.
In the wake of the evacuation, evidence suggested that former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had overruled the Foreign Office in permitting Nowzad’s position on the last-minute evacuation flights.
An inquiry later found that the charity’s appeal and evacuation had “absorbed significant time and resources of both civilian and military personnel.”
However, Farthing struck back at critics, arguing that the “privately funded” evacuation should be “rightly celebrated.”
In comments to The Telegraph, Maj. Andrew Fox, a three-tour veteran of Afghanistan, accused Farthing of “shilling Taliban propaganda.”
He added: “It really underlines his status as one of the great self-obsessed hypocrites of our time. It proves once and for all that he deliberately whipped up needless hysteria during the extraction, diverting time and effort away from saving lives.
“The Taliban are criticized by their fellow Muslims in other countries. They murdered over 400 British service members. Their position on women’s rights and education is abhorrent. Their barbaric policies are running Afghanistan into the ground.”
Nowzad’s website says that it is working to rebuild operations in Afghanistan, calling for Western engagement with the country’s Taliban rulers.
A statement says: “Still to this day, desperately needed aid money is being blocked from entering the country as Western leaders fail to engage in constructive dialog with the Afghan government — in our humble opinion, it is what it is.
“Now that we are back operating and the word is spreading, we have seen many concerned locals, who thankfully never looked the other way, bringing injured dogs and cats to us for treatment.
“We were actually quite overwhelmed when one happy rescuer returned with flowers to thank the team for treating the dog he had brought to us.”
Indian wrestlers hold candlelight march demanding arrest of sports … – Arab News