Iran, Russia can isolate US, says Khamenei

ANKARA: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that Tehran and Moscow needed to step up cooperation to isolate the United States and restore peace in the Middle East.

“Full resolution of Syria’s crisis needs strong cooperation between Iran and Russia … Our cooperation can isolate America … This cooperation will restore stability in the region,” Khamenei said during a meeting with Putin.

Putin — on his first visit to Tehran since 2015 — also held talks with President Hassan Rouhani.

The Kremlin strongman will also take part in a three-way summit with Rouhani and the leader of ex-Soviet Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev aimed at bolstering economic ties between their energy-rich nations.

Moscow said Syria will be a focus of Putin’s visit, which comes after Russia, Iran and Turkey pledged after negotiations in Kazakhstan on Tuesday to bring the Syrian regime and its opponents together for a “congress” to push peace efforts.

Russia and Iran, key military supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey, which backs Syrian rebels, have organised a series of peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana this year, agreeing on the establishment of “de-escalation” zones in various parts of the war-torn country.

Wednesday’s talks will also focus on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which saw sanctions lifted in exchange for limits on Tehran’s atomic programme and which is under pressure from US President Donald Trump.

Tehran signed the deal with six countries including Russia and the United States, but Trump last month refused to certify the agreement, drawing criticism from Moscow which slammed the US president’s “aggressive and threatening rhetoric” against Iran.

Syria peace push

Ahead of Putin’s arrival, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Russia’s chief of staff Valery Gerasimov flew into Tehran for talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Bagheri to discuss “Syria…and the fight against terrorism.”

The military might of Moscow and Tehran in Syria has helped prop up Assad’s forces and turn the protracted conflict in his favour with a string of key battlefield victories.

Since the start of the year Russia has looked to cement the gains from its game-changing intervention by spearheading the peace push at talks in Kazakhstan, positioning itself as a broker between key players Iran and Turkey and largely bypassing the West.

Up until now the focus has been on quelling the violence on the ground and the three powers have established four “de-escalation zones” around rebel-held territory in the country.

The zones were initially credited for bringing about a significant reduction in bloodshed, but international aid groups say they are currently failing to curb the fighting.

Now Moscow seems keen on expanding its peace drive in search of a political settlement and on Thursday got Iran and Turkey to agree an initiative for a “Congress of Syrian National Dialogue” that aims to bring together some 33 delegations in the Russian city of Sochi on Nov 18.

The smartest and dumbest social media posts on the Sharmeen Obaid ‘harassment’ controversy

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy just can’t seem to please Pakistanis.

Bringing two Oscars home didn’t help and now, speaking up against inappropriate behavior and harassment ─ a complaint women in Pakistan are actively told to never register ─ landed her at the heart of a rather fierce social media debate.

Read: We need to change the conversation about Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Here’s how.

Last week, the filmmaker shared on Twitter that her sister was taken to the emergency room at Aga Khan University Hospital and received a Facebook friend request the next day from the doctor who had examined her, an incident she termed as ‘harassment’.

Since then, she has faced considerable backlash on social media, which is what we’re guessing prompted her to release a statement about the whole fiasco yesterday.

While sifting through all the responses on Twitter and Facebook, we’ve come to realise that the internet is a scary echo chamber. But voices of reason also cropped up every now and then.

Here are some of the smartest AND dumbest reactions we spotted on social media:

1) Smartest: When a lawyer shed light on whether it was harassment

As everyone seemed to fixate on what the term means (or does not mean), a Pakistani lawyer Abira Ashfaq laid it out in very simple language: violating boundaries in a doctor-patient relationship is dangerous, and it could be interpreted as harassment under the Pakistani law.

“A Facebook request could be such a communication given the nature of the illness and the doctor-patient relationship. It must, in addition, create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

Also, this:

See, it really wasn’t that difficult.

2) Dumbest: when people thought it would be a great idea to spam Sharmeen Obaid with friend requests

Yep, they went there. Here’s a Facebook event that was formed specifically to spam SOC with friend requests.

People rallied online to harass a woman only to prove she wasn’t actually harassed.

The irony hurt our heads.

3) Smartest: when this man dropped some truth bombs about the medical profession

Pakistanis en masse, almost as if habitually, dismiss women’s complaints; it threatens the patriarchal power structure that has worked in their favour for centuries. Women become their front line defenders, assuming that aligning themselves with their oppressors would help them survive.

So when a guy ─ a male health professional at that ─ spoke in support, some serious truth bombs were dropped:

Moiz ended his post with a powerful note to men in the profession, and said, “Do not pretend this doesn’t happen.”

4) Dumbest: when this clinic boasted it would hire a doctor who was under investigation

In a twisted bid to earn brownie points with the public, these businesses did what only companies in Pakistan would do: offer to hire an unnamed man who may be under investigation over claims of harassment and professional misconduct.

We just wanna ask: really? Reallllyyy? Do you really want to be known as the medical institution that hires doctors who may be under investigation for professional misconduct?

5) Smartest: when this guy broke down cyber harassment

This one’s for all those cribbing about how it’s just a friend request and she should have just ignored it.

And for all those saying that clubbing a friend request with harassment takes the focus off of real victims… we think telling someone how they should categorise a feeling at the hands of someone else’s transgression is belittling harassment more than anything else.

6) Dumbest: when Hamza Ali Abbasi gave his two cents on the matter

Of course it was only a matter of time until the actor spoke up and as usual, it wasn’t an argument rooted in logic.

Firstly, Sharmeen never said it was sexual harassment, just harassment. Yes, taken in context, you could imply that she meant the former but let’s be really clear on the fact that she didn’t say it.

Also, maybe men don’t usually feel harassed by supposedly trivial things like Facebook friend requests because they’re usually not the ones feeling vulnerable, online or offline. I don’t know, just a thought.

7) Smartest: when this guy pointed out the obvious…

People were really fixating on the word sexual and taking it quite literally too. The friend request and comments on her sister’s pictures came after a “very private examination”.

Do you think that would feel platonic or professional? It’s downright creepy and even if it isn’t sexual harassment by your restrictive approach, it’s still harassment, plain and simple.

Good to know some sanity has persevered.

8) Dumbest: when Shehryar Taseer actually believed this fake post was written by Sharmeen Obaid…

It was so obviously fake. Oh man, we’re cringing on his behalf.

But okay, let’s give him props for doing his homework, albeit late.

9) Smartest: this man telling other men how NOT to be creepy

Like he so eloquently put it: “Fareeda with a dislocated collar bone is in dire need of medical care not your 3rd class pick up lines.”

Here’s to better male allies.

10) Dumbest: this lady brainstorming ideas for Sharmeen Obaid’s next

To answer her question, no, she probably won’t because she’s got her hands full with the horrific stuff that happens in our own backyard.

Plus, we bet even if she did, they’d just brand her a Pakistan hater and say she’s shedding light on the ills of other societies and ignoring her own. She just can’t win.

11) Smartest: when Ushna Shah urged you to look at the bigger picture

The actress highlights why something that people want to brush off as a mere friend request felt like such a violation of privacy.

Call it an abuse of power on Sharmeen’s part all you want but try not to forget that both parties come from places of privilege in this scenario: Sharmeen and the doctor, who is evidently benefitting from male privilege. How else do you justify people defending a “father of four” reaching out to a patient in a totally inappropriate manner? Speaking of…

12) Dumbest: when people started using his kids as a shield for his unethical behaviour

Like being a father automatically absolves him of all accountability.

Let’s stop making the perpetrator the victim, shall we?


All social media posts used in this article were public at the time of publishing

India rout New Zealand in Nehra’s swansong

NEW DELHI: India gave retiring fast bowler Ashish Nehra a winning farewell with a comprehensive 53-run victory over New Zealand in the first Twenty20 International here at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Wednesday.

The hosts capitalised on a blistering start to post a commanding 202-3 before restricting New Zealand to 149-8 to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.

Left-arm paceman Nehra, 38, ended his international career at his home ground nearly 18 years after his 1999 Test debut against Sri Lanka.

Put into bat by a New Zealand side wary of the dew factor, the hosts got off to a flying start with openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma featuring in India’s highest Twenty20 partnership.

The left-right duo toyed with the Kiwi attack to plunder 158 runs for the first wicket, aided by sloppy catching by a New Zealand side usually renowned for their high fielding standards.

Dropped on eight by Mitchell Santner at point, Dhawan smashed 80 off 52 balls, hitting two sixes and 10 boundaries in his scintillating knock.

Sharma, whom Tim Southee spilled at long-off when on 16, also scored 80, clobbering four sixes and six fours.

Virat Kohli (26 not out) also got a reprieve when Martin Guptill floored a catch in the deep and the India captain smacked three sixes in his 11-ball cameo.

Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi dismissed Dhawan and Hardik Pandya in the same over but could not stop India passing 200.

New Zealand lost both openers inside four overs with Pandya sprinting from long-off and diving full length to take a stunning catch near the sightscreen to dismiss Guptill.

Tom Latham top-scored with 39 and Santner made 27 not out but New Zealand never really got going.

Rajkot hosts the second Twenty20 International on Saturday.

Scoreboard

INDIA:

R.G. Sharma c Latham b Boult 80
S. Dhawan c Latham b Sodhi 80
H.H. Pandya c Latham b Sodhi 0
V. Kohli not out 26
M.S. Dhoni not out 7

EXTRAS (B-5, LB-1, W-1, NB-2) 9

TOTAL (for three wkts, 20 overs) 202

FALL OF WKTS: 1-158, 2-158, 3-185.

DID NOT BAT: S.S. Iyer, A.R. Patel, B. Kumar, A. Nehra, J.J. Bumrah, Y.S. Chahal.

BOWLING: Santner 4-0-30-0; Boult 4-0-49-1; Southee 4-0-44-0 (1w); Grandhomme 3-0-34-0 (2nb); Sodhi 4-0-25-2; Munro 1-0-14-0.

NEW ZEALAND:

M.J. Guptill c Pandya b Chahal 4
C. Munro b Kumar 7
K.S. Williamson c Dhoni b Pandya 28
T.W.M. Latham st Dhoni b Chahal 39
T.C. Bruce c Sharma b Patel 10
C. de Grandhomme c Dhawan b Patel 0
H.M. Nicholls run out 6
M.J. Santner not out 27
T.G. Southee c Dhoni b Bumrah 8
I.S. Sodhi not out 11

EXTRAS (lb-3, w-5, nb-1) 9

TOTAL (for eight wkts, 20 overs) 149

FALL OF WKTS: 1-6, 2-18, 3-54, 4-83, 5-84, 6-94, 7-99, 8-111.

DID NOT BAT: T.A. Boult.

BOWLING: Nehra 4-0-29-0 (1nb, 3w); Chahal 4-0-26-2; Kumar 3-0-23-1; Bumrah 4-0-37-1 (2w); Patel 4-0-20-2; Pandya 1-0-11-1.

RESULT: India won by 53 runs to lead three-match series 1-0.

UMPIRES: N. Menon (India) and C. Shamshuddin (India).

TV UMPIRE: A.K. Chaudhary (India).

MATCH REFEREE: B.C. Broad (England).

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Shikhar Dhawan.

SECOND MATCH: Rajkot, Saturday.

THIRD MATCH: Thiruvananthapuram, Tuesday.

Dar fails to appear as accountability proceedings resume in corruption reference

An accountability court on Thursday rejected a fresh application for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s exemption from court proceedings, upholding his bailable arrest warrants in the corruption reference filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for owning assets beyond his means.

As soon as the proceedings began, the finance minister’s junior counsel Ayesha — who appeared in court instead of senior counsel Khawaja Haris — filed the application for Dar’s exemption, after submitting a medical report from a foreign hospital that states that the finance minister is ill and “cannot stand for more than four minutes.”

The medical report also said that Dar is facing heart palpitations and doctors had recommended that he undergo angiography.

Objecting to the submission of the report, the NAB prosecutor said that the medical report is from a private hospital and was not submitted to court through the proper channels.

“The report should have been forwarded to the court through the the Foreign Office, which should have received it by the Pakistan High Commission,” the prosecutor said.

In the previous hearing on Oct 30, the court issued bailable arrest warrants for the minister after rejecting his counsel’s application seeking Dar’s exemption from appearance in today’s hearing.

Proceedings in the trial could not advance due to Dar’s absence, even though prosecution witness Abdul Rehman Gondal, branch manager of a private bank’s parliament branch, had appeared in the court with two gunny sacks full of documents related to the minister’s bank accounts.

At the outset of the hearing, Dar’s counsel Khawaja Haris filed an application seeking exemption for the minister’s appearance in the court today and adjournment of the hearing until Nov 2. The court initially reserved its decision on the matter but later rejected the application.

‘Assets beyond known income’

On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one against Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

In its reference against the finance minister, NAB has alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx)”.

The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.

PM Abbasi rejects 40-page turnaround plan for PIA

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Wednesday trashed a ‘turnaround plan’ for Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PI­AC).

The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi held a detailed discussion on how the national flag carrier can stand on its own feet.

An insider who attended the meeting told Media that senior officials of the PIAC, who had been tasked by the prime minister to prepare a comprehensive turnaround plan for the crippling national flag carrier, came up in the meeting with a 40-page plan that took three months for completion.

However, the prime minister and his cabinet rejected the plan and gave a tough time to the PIAC team by raising objections on the plan. “I do not want 40-page plan, give a brief plan on four to five pages as to how we can rescue the national flag carrier,” the prime minister, who himself have an experience to run a airline, said.

The prime minister refused to grant any financial package to the PIAC in future unless its management comes up with a clear and effective plan.

“I will not give even a single penny if you people do not tell me how much amount to be required on the first, second, third and fourth year and what progress is expected year wise,” he added.

Later, the meeting decided to form a special committee to fine-tune the turnaround plan prepared by the PIAC management.