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Turkey, US agree to jointly establish safe zone in Syria’s north

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Turkey and the United States on Wednesday agreed to jointly establish a safe zone in Syria’s north, a day after fresh Turkish threats for a military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in the region.

The Turkish Defence Ministry and the U.S. embassy in Ankara said in a joint statement that the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) allies have agreed to establish a joint operations centre in Turkey to coordinate and manage the establishment of a safe zone.

According to the two countries, the safe zone will become a peace corridor as well as serving as a zone for sending Syrian refugees in Turkey back home.

However, it was not immediately clear how and when the zone would be created.

Turkey has long been demanding the establishment of a safe zone in Syria’s north designed to stem the flow of migrants into Turkey and oust U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters from its border with Syria.

According to state news agency Anadolu, a group of U.S. officials were holding talks since Monday in Ankara on a proposed buffer zone.

Earlier, Turkish Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar, said Ankara needed the safe zone to be around 40 kilometres deep and that the two countries should disarm and remove U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Syria’s north.

Ankara sees the YPG as terrorists linked to insurgents at home, but for the U.S., the militia had been key in fighting Islamic State.

However, Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, had earlier threatened an incursion very soon in spite talks with the U.S. (dpa/NAN

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Global watchdog to monitor Pakistan’s progress in tackling militant funding

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Global watchdog to monitor Pakistan’s progress in tackling militant funding

Islamabad, Aug. 23, 2019 The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will monitor Pakistan’s progress in implementing a proposed plan against financing for militant organisations, ahead of a meeting in October, the international watchdog body on Friday said.

Its Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) met in Canberra this week to discuss reports on countries, including Pakistan, which was in 2018 placed on a “gray list” of countries with inadequate controls over money laundering and terrorism financing.

The reports “will now be subject to post-plenary quality and consistency review prior to publication,” it said in a statement on its website after the meeting ended.

Final publication on the APG website is expected in early October 2019, it added.

In June, the watchdog gave Pakistan until October to improve its counter-terror finance operations or face further action.

Separately, Pakistan’s finance ministry rejected as baseless Indian media reports that Islamabad was put on FATF’s black list.

India, engaged in a standoff with Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, has pressed for further sanctions against its neighbor.

Pakistan has been placed on so-called “enhanced follow-up” in line with FATF’s evaluation procedures, the ministry said in a statement.

“…Pakistan would be required to submit follow-up progress reports to APG on quarterly basis,” it added. (dpa/NAN)

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Report says insecurity triples school closures in West, Central Africa

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Report says insecurity triples school closures in West, Central Africa

School

Almost 9,300 schools are closed in Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Mali, Niger and Nigeria as a result of insecurity, triple the number recorded at the end of 2017, the fund said in a new report.

Deliberate attacks on schools, pupils and teachers were denying children their right to learn and leaving them in fear for their lives, said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Charlotte Gornitzka, after visiting the region.

Cameroon, where clashes between the army and an English-speaking separatist movement have led to insecurity for the past couple of years, is the most affected country in the region, with more than 4,400 schools forcibly closed, the organisation found.

Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have meanwhile witnessed a six-fold increase in school closures due to attacks and threats of violence in just over two years, from 512 in April 2017 to 3,005 in June 2019, UNICEF said.

Countries in West and Central Africa suffer from ongoing insecurity caused by various rebel, militia and terrorist groups, including Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP). (dpa/NAN)

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Vietnam prosecutor imprisoned for child molestation

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Vietnam prosecutor imprisoned for child molestation

Nguyen Huu Linh, a lawyer and former Deputy Prosecutor of Da Nang, was found to have forcibly kissed and touched an eight-year-old girl in an elevator of an apartment complex in April, the People’s Court of Da Nang ruled.

He was sentenced for “lewd behaviour” toward someone under the age of 16.

The case caused a scandal in Vietnam after security footage of the incident went viral on social media, leading to calls for the former prosecutor’s indictment.

While Linh admitted to attempting to kiss the girl, he pleaded not guilty on the grounds that his behaviour did not rise to the level of criminality.

Under Vietnamese law, he could have been sentenced to up to three years imprisonment. (dpa/NAN)

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Pakistan mulling legal action over Twitter suspension of accounts

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Twitter

“A lawsuit would be an extreme step, but we have to protect our people,’’ Arslan Khalid, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focal person for digital media, said.

Twitter suspended at least 240 Pakistani accounts that include journalists over posts related to Kashmir last week.

Only 10 accounts have been restored so far.

“We are expecting a response from Twitter today and hope our concerns are addressed,’’ Khalid said.

Pakistan formally complained on Monday and since then, instead of suspending accounts, Twitter has sent warning emails to people, including journalists.

Twitter cannot “moderate” on an issue at the behest of India, Khalid said.

“My Twitter account was suspended when I replied to a veiled nuclear threat by the Indian Defence Minister,’’ Kamran Yousaf, Defence Correspondent for English-language daily The Express Tribune, said.

India’s decision, earlier this month, to revoke the special constitutional status of its part of Kashmir and impose a security lockdown on the region has escalated tensions between the neighbours, who have previously fought two wars over Kashmir.

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis took to social media websites to express solidarity with the Kashmiri people and highlight human rights violations in the disputed region.

Pakistan and India both control parts of Kashmir, but each lays claim to the entire region since the countries gained independence from Britain in 1947. (dpa/NAN)

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Pakistan Supreme Court orders action against judge in ex-PM case

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Discipline

Islamabad, Aug. 23, 2019 Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered disciplinary action against a judge, who convicted former premier, Nawaz Sharif, effectively giving a boost to Sharif’s appeal against a seven-year jail term for corruption.

Sharif was convicted and jailed last year after failing to prove the source of income that had led to his ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia.

Under Pakistani law, that is taken as proof of corruption.

Sharif denied the charges that he said were politically motivated.

His party in July presented a video at a news conference, apparently showing the judge who presided over Sharif’s conviction, Arshad Malik, as saying he had been pressured into handing down a guilty verdict by individuals, he did not identify, and who had compromised footage of him.

Malik later issued a statement denying he had been blackmailed to convict Sharif and said the video had been manipulated.

Malik had already been removed from his position in an anti-corruption court and the Supreme Court on Friday ordered him to report back to the High Court in the city of Lahore.

“We expect that after his repatriation, appropriate departmental disciplinary proceedings shall be initiated against him,’’ the Supreme Court said in an order.

The court said Malik’s “stinking conduct” in connection with the video scandal was abhorrent, and an appeal court should decide whether to consider it as evidence for any relief for Sharif.

An appeal against Sharif’s conviction is pending before the Islamabad High Court.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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