Facebook hits ‘dangerous’ armed insurgent groups in Myanmar bans

YANGON: Facebook has banned four insurgent groups fighting against Myanmar’s military from its social network, the company said on Tuesday, saying it wanted to prevent offline harm by removing groups it branded “dangerous organisations”.

The US-based social media giant says it has removed hundreds of accounts, pages and groups for links to Myanmar’s military, or misrepresentation, since last August.

The action came after Facebook was criticised for not doing enough to prevent violent and hate-filled content spreading on its platform, which grew hugely popular in Myanmar just as conflicts in the country escalated.

The Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Kachin Independence Army and the Taang National Liberation Army were banned, Facebook said in a statement on Tuesday, adding it would remove “praise, support and representation” of the groups.

“In an effort to prevent and disrupt offline harm, we do not allow organisations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or engage in violence to have a presence on Facebook,” the company said.

The bans targeted only some of the ethnic minority insurgent groups in Myanmar that have battled for autonomy in conflicts that have raged on and off since shortly after Myanmar’s independence from Britain in 1948.

The four groups named by Facebook have not signed a government-led ceasefire agreement and have frequently clashed with the armed forces in recent years.

One group, the Kachin Independence Army, is one the strongest of the country’s insurgent groups and occupies territory in the north.

Another, the Arakan Army, has been engaged in fighting in the west since December that has displaced more than 5,000. It launched attacks last month that killed 13 Myanmar border police.

Facebook said there was “clear evidence that these organisations have been responsible for attacks against civilians and have engaged in violence in Myanmar, and we want to prevent them from using our services to further inflame tensions on the ground”.

Mong Aik Kyaw, a spokesman for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, confirmed the group’s page was down, but declined to comment on Facebook’s reasoning.

The removal would restrict the group’s ability to “inform the public” about its activities, he said.

The other three groups were not immediately available for comment.

Some accounts related to Myanmar’s armed forces were first removed last August after a UN fact-finding mission called for top Myanmar generals to be prosecuted for what it said was a campaign of mass killings and gang rape against the Rohingya Muslim minority carried out with “genocidal intent”.

In 2017, the military led a crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents, pushing more than 730,000 Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to UN agencies.

A Reuters’ special report in August found that Facebook failed to promptly heed numerous warnings from organisations in Myanmar about social media posts fuelling attacks on minority groups such as the Rohingya.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2019


Board recommends Nawaz’s shifting to cardiac institute

LAHORE: The Services Hospital’s medical board on Tuesday recommended that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif be shifted to a cardiac health facility in view of the heart issues he is facing.

The board’s head said his treatment was possible in any specialised cardiac health facility in Pakistan.

“We examined Nawaz Sharif and carried out his tests related to blood count, hormones, bio-chemistry, radiology, heart, kidneys, brain and eyes. He also underwent CT scan, ultrasound and Colour Doppler tests at the Services Hospital. After examining all results, the medical board has reached a unanimous decision that Mr Sharif needs some kind of cardiac intervention. For the purpose he should be shifted to a cardiac institute,” the head of the multidisciplinary medical board at the Services Hospital, Professor Dr Mahmood Ayaz, told Dawn.

Asked about deal allowing ex-PM to proceed to London for treatment, Maryam says her father wants to go back to jail

He said Mr Sharif had heart issues because of his previous history of some diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney problem.

“According to the findings of the board, Nawaz Sharif is facing some problems in blood supply of heart veins that must be addressed by cardiac specialists. We had engaged some cardiac specialists from the Punjab Institute of Cardiology who examined the patient and his test reports,” he said, adding that the board suggested little change in Mr Sharif’s medicines.

Asked whether Mr Sharif’s treatment was possible in the country, Professor Ayaz said: “His treatment is possible in Pakistan. We have recommended that he should be thoroughly examined by cardiologists for his cardiac complications.”

Prof Ayaz further said the medical board had given its recommendations to the Punjab home department and it would be the latter’s prerogative to shift Mr Sharif (to another health facility) from the Services Hospital.

Mr Sharif’s personal cardiologist Dr Adnan Khan also said that the former premier required comprehensive and specialised cardiac assessment/evaluation and management as strongly recommended by the Services Hospital’s board.

According to a source, the Punjab government is likely to form a fifth medical board in the light of the recommendations of the fourth board of the Services Hospital to examine Mr Sharif for his cardiac complications.

Meanwhile, when Mar­yam Nawaz, who visited her father at the hospital on Tuesday, was asked whether he was being shifted to London for treatment (under some deal), she categorically said: “Mian sahib wants to go back to jail.”

When she came out of the hospital, a good number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers gathered there started raising slogans in favour of their leadership. Ms Maryam asked them to pray for Mr Sharif and thanked them on behalf of her father.

PML-N senior leader Rana Tanvir Hussain, who also met Mr Sharif, said the three-time premier should be allowed to go to London for treatment. “Mr Sharif’s heart surgery was conducted in London. We want his treatment abroad as the doctors out there know his medical history,” he said.

Replying to a question about a possible deal between the Sharif family and the government, the former minister said: “The government is talking about the deal. We want it to tell us who is striking a deal and with whom.”

On Monday Punjab Information Minister Fayazul Hasan Chohan had claimed that Nawaz Sharif was keen to go to London for treatment. “They (the Sharif family and the PML-N) have been blackmailing the government with regard to the health of Nawaz Sharif. They want relief for the Sharif family,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif was shifted to the Services Hospital from Kot Lakhpat jail on Saturday last on the recommendations of the third special medical board. He is serving seven-year imprisonment in Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case.

PM Khan orders probe into attack on Khairpur Hindu temple

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday night ordered an investigation into an attack on a Hindu temple in Khairpur’s Kumb area, where earlier this week assailants set fire to statues and holy books before fleeing.

Khan said the Sindh government “must take swift and decisive action against the perpetrators” of the attack. “This is against the teachings of the Quran.”

Local police today are continuing their efforts to trace and arrest those involved in the attack.

No one has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, which was condemned by Hindus as well as local Muslims.

MNA Ramesh Kumar, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister, went to Kumb on Tuesday along with the Sukkur commissioner, Khairpur deputy commissioner and Sukkur deputy inspector general in order to visit the temple and examine the damage caused to it.

He also spoke to members of the local Hindu community and collected details of the incident.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail also took notice of the desecration of the temple upon receiving a report from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Jai Prakash Ukrani yesterday.

In a statement issued by Governor House, Ismail had said such incidents were part of a conspiracy to sabotage the prevalent interfaith harmony and religious concord in the province. He said the government was making all-out efforts to ensure safety and security of minorities.