Iranian army says it will ‘confront the enemies’ as protests rage

Iran’s army warned on Friday that it would “confront the enemies” to ensure security and peace in the country, according to a statement, as protests rage over the death of a woman in the morality police’s custody.

Iranians have staged nationwide demonstrations over the case of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died last week after being arrested for wearing “unsuitable attire”.

The army said “these desperate actions are part of the evil strategy of the enemy to weaken the Islamic regime”.

Pro-government protests were planned for Friday, Iranian media said.

Meanwhile, a New York-based human rights group has said that at least 36 people have been killed in an Iranian crackdown on protests.

The official death toll rose to at least 17 on Thursday, including five security personnel, but the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said its sources put the figure much higher.

“On the 7th day of #IranProtest, officials admit to at least 17 deaths w/ independent sources say 36,” the CHRI said in a Twitter post late Thursday.

“Expect the number to rise. World leaders must press Iranian officials to allow protest without lethal force.”

“The government has responded with live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas, according to videos shared on social media that have also shown protesters bleeding profusely,” CHRI said in a statement.

Unprecedented images have shown protesters defacing or burning images of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and late Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani.

In response, security forces have fired at crowds with birdshot and metal pellets, and deployed tear gas and water cannon, said Amnesty International and other human rights groups.

Demonstrators have hurled stones at them, set fire to police cars and chanted anti-government slogans, the official IRNA news agency said.

Protesters in Tehran and other cities have torched police stations and vehicles as outrage over Amini’s death showed no signs of abating, with reports of security forces coming under attack.

Amini’s death has reignited anger over issues including restrictions on personal freedoms in Iran — including strict dress codes for women and an economy reeling from sanctions.

Iran’s clerical rulers fear a revival of the 2019 protests that erupted over gasoline price rises, the bloodiest in the Islamic Republic’s history.

Global response to flood devastation ‘commendable but not enough’: PM Shehbaz

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday that the world’s response to the flood devastation in Pakistan was “commendable” but added that it was far from meeting the country’s needs.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, the premier outlined the challenges the country is facing due to catastrophic flood which have displaced more than 33 million people.

“We are among the top ten most vulnerable countries [to climate change],” he said, adding that around 1,500 people had died in the disastrous deluge.

Standing crops on four million acres have been washed away and thousands of houses have been damaged, PM Shehbaz said.

Highlighting the meetings he had held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the premier said that he had spoken to several world leaders.

He especially mentioned the recent visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “He saw this calamity with his own eyes. He said: ‘Prime Minister, it is unbelievable’. He is a man who has been dedicating his life for humanitarian cause[s] for many years [and] he said he had never seen this kind of a climatic situation in his life.”

He went on to say that several world leaders had talked about the devastation in Pakistan. I am “very grateful” to US President Joe Biden for speaking about Pakistan’s plight, he said, adding that Turkiye’s Reccip Tayyip Erdogan and France’s Emmanuel Macron had also done the same.

“Many other leaders have discussed and openly said that Pakistan has never needed support and help more than ever before at this time. This shows the intentions and sincerity of global leaders but I think it should come very fast because time is running [out] and we are racing against time,” he said as he highlighted the health concerns among the displaced flood victims.

“What the world has done is commendable but it is far from meeting our needs. We can’t do it alone.”

The prime minister highlighted that Pakistan could not fund the relief and rehabilitation work by itself. Flood losses are estimated to be at $30 billion, he said.

“Unless the world comes out with billions of dollars for relief, rehabilitation, for building resilient infrastructure […] things will not come back to normal. And I need to put the economy back on [track] and put millions of people back in their homes.”

Talking about Pakistan’s debt obligations, PM Shehbaz said he had urged European leaders to fight the country’s case with the Paris Club for a moratorium.

“Unless we get substantial relief, how can the world expect us to stand on our own feet,” he asked. “It is simply impossible. The world has to stand by us.”

He also said that there was a “yawning gap” between what had been asked and what was available. “All hell will break loose.”

He said that once Paris Clubs grants the moratorium, Pakistan would also speak to China seeking debt relief.

Commenting on his meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, he said that he had spoken to him about the availability of gas.

“He has promised me that he will most definitely look into this. There is no commitment as yet. But we are also talking to them about buying wheat because there was a shortage of wheat last year and this year the land is not going to be ready for wheat sowing. So we’ll have to import wheat which will cost a fortune.”

Separately on Twitter, the premier said that in his interactions on the third day of the UNGA, there had been a “massive outpouring of sympathy and solidarity” with Pakistan for the flood devastation.

“The time has come for [the] world to translate this solidarity into concrete action to help Pakistan overcome this crisis,” he said.

Ahead of the interview, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb shared photographs of the prime minister with Bloomberg anchor Sherry Ahn.