Massive rallies held in Myanmar against military coup

YANGON: Myanmar’s anti-coup protesters returned to the streets in force on Wednesday, staging the biggest demonstrations since troops fanned out around the country to quell opposition to the new military junta.

Much of the country has been in open revolt since the military deposed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s government at the start of the month and charged her under an obscure import law.

Tens of thousands rallied in Yangon, some blockading roads with vehicles to stop security forces from moving around the nation’s biggest city.

Police and soldiers were spotted near a key protest junction but appeared to be hanging back, looking on as demonstrators streamed past.

“We have to fight until the end,” Nilar, a 21-year-old student who asked not to use her real name, said.

“We need to show our unity and strength to end military rule. People need to come out on the streets.”

Wednesday’s crowds came in defiance of violent efforts by the regime to bring resistance to heel — including use of tear gas and rubber bullets — following nationwide street protests and a disobedience campaign encouraging civil servants to strike.

Demonstrations over the past two days had been noticeably smaller since troops were deployed around Yangon at the weekend.

But social media platforms had been flooded with calls for a show of force by protesters in the hours before the junta imposed a third consecutive overnight internet blackout.

By noon, there were anti-coup demonstrations across Myanmar, from the remote highland region of Chin state to a small town in the Irrawaddy delta.

Right outside the administrative capital Naypyidaw, tens of thousands of people from different sectors marched through the logging town of Pyinmana carrying signs saying “Help Myanmar”.

UN special rapporteur Tom Andrews warned that soldiers going into Yangon, as had been reported, could lead to the situation there spiralling out of control.

“We could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar,” he said.

Meanwhile, the military justified its power seizure by alleging widespread voter fraud in November elections won by Suu Kyi’s party in a landslide.

After her detention in a dawn raid on February 1, Suu Kyi was charged with possessing unregistered walkie-talkies found in her home.

PML-N’s Senator Mushahidullah Khan passes away in Islamabad

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan passed away in Islamabad early Thursday morning at the age of 68, according to Radio Pakistan.

The cause of death was not immediately clear. Mushahidullah had been awarded a ticket by the PML-N to contest the upcoming Senate elections on a general seat.

The news was also confirmed by PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz. In a tweet, she prayed tribute to the senator’s services, calling him the “loyal and exceptional companion” of former premier Nawaz Sharif.

“I am shattered to hear the sad news. Will never be able to forget his fatherly affection and love. Huge, huge loss,” she said

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi expressed grief over the demise of the senator. In a statement, he said said Mushahidullah was a seasoned politician and a good human being. He also prayed for the departed soul, Radio Pakistan reported.

Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that the party had lost a “very brave, loyal and shrewd parliamentarian”. He offered prayers for the deceased..

MNA Mohsin Dawar said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Mushahidullah’s passing. “It’s a huge loss. Our heartfelt condolences [go out to] his family and all PML-N workers,” he said.

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An outspoken and aggressive PML-N loyalist, Mushahidullah was not a man known to mince words. He had no qualms about hitting his opponents below the belt and it seemed that this unflinching, aggressive loyalty is what endeared him to the Sharif brothers all these years.

Following the Oct 1999 coup staged by retired General Pervez Musharraf, when most of the Sharifs’ comrades-in-arms jumped ship and joined the king’s party, Mushahidullah chose to take on the military strongman head on.

Within 24 hours of General Musharraf taking over, on Oct 13, Mushahidullah convened a press conference where he was less than flattering about the newly-imposed military regime and summarily resigned from the two lucrative positions he held at the time; as administrator of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and as adviser to the Ministry of Labour and Manpower.

For his troubles, he was imprisoned and, by his own admission, had to endure several “atrocities” perpetrated by the military regime of the time.

Even though well-respected in party circles, his temper and lack of a filter when it came to making public statements often landed him in hot water. From quarrelling with fellow guests on TV talk shows to provoking opposition parliamentarians on the floor of the house, his fellow party leaders said that he seldom played nice.

Mushahidullah was a trusted aide of Nawaz ever since the latter was forced into exile. First appointed party information secretary and later made a senator in 2009, he also served as the party spokesperson for many years.