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.

US report exposes Indian Army’s propaganda campaign

The report titled “My Heart Belongs to Kashmir: An Analysis of a Pro-Indian Army Covert Influence Operation on Twitter” took cognizance of a Twitter network that was recently suspended and concludes that the network was consistent with the Indian Army’s Srinagar-based Chinar Corps..

The report pointed out that the purpose of the Twitter accounts in the network was to praise the Indian Army for their military successes and provision of so-called humanitarian services in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The report said the accounts also criticized Pakistan and China who are rivals of India.

The Chinar Corps is responsible for military operations in the Kashmir Valley. The Corps also has social media accounts where it consistently promotes a positive image of the Indian Army despite its internationally recognized human rights violations in IIOJK. Moreover, the social media accounts of Chinar Corps were suspended and blocked for short periods of time on multiple occasions for “coordinated inauthentic activity”.

Last month, Twitter identified a network of over 1000 accounts that tweeted about India and Pakistan. Twitter suspended the network for violating its Platform Manipulation and Spam Policy and said that the presumptive country of origin was India.

The SIO report noted that while the network was not attributed to any actor or organization, there were many similarities to the Chinar Corps. It stated that the content of the Twitter network is consistent with the Chinar Corps’ objectives, praising the work of the Indian Army in IIOJK.

The network was made up of several Twitter accounts posing as fake Kashmiris with images taken from elsewhere on the internet, for instance, Getty Stock Images.

“Tweets tagging journalists aimed either to bring events to the attention of reporters or to bring the reporter to the attention of followers – often in an apparent attempt to target the reporter for what was framed as anti-India content,” the report further revealed.

It is to mention here that Stanford Internet Observatory is a program of the Cyber Policy Center which is a joint initiative of the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies and the prestigious Stanford Law School in the US.

Indian land ‘ceded’ to China in Ladakh, locals claim

Locals near India’s border with Chi­na in the mountainous region of Lad­a­kh have claimed that the Indian government “ceded” land to China after both sides agreed to withdraw troops from contentious areas earlier this month, The Guardian reported on Monday.

India and China have been involved in a tense cross-border dispute since 2020 in the western Hima­layas. However, the two nations began pulling back soldiers from the contested area of Gogra-Hot Springs after top-level military mee­t­ings in which they agreed to deescalate the situation.

According to a statement by the Indian government after the agreement, the territory on both sides of the border, known as the line of actual control, has been restored to the ‘pre-standoff period’. As part of the truce, buffer zones were created in which neither side was allo­w­ed to patrol their troops.

However, talking to The Guardian, locals and elected representatives of the region have claimed that the buffer zones have been established in areas previously under Indian control.

“Our army is vacating areas which were not disputed at all, while Chinese troops are stationed in the areas traditionally patrolled by India,” Konchok Stanzin, an elected councillor from the region, told The Guardian.

Mr Stanzin claimed India had already ceded land during a 2021 agreement to withdraw from areas around Lake Pangong.

“We raised similar concerns in earlier disengagement, like in the Pangong Tso area where our army again lost a huge area,” he was quoted as saying.

“Earlier, our concern was about Chinese incursions only but now … our government is giving up our land happily. If India’s approach remains the same, we are going to lose more land.”

Locals are also apprehensive of the intrusion as they have lost massive areas which they used as grazing lands for their cattle, said Mr Stanzin. They fear this will impact their main sources of living — the cashmere wool-producing Changra goats.

Last week, opposition party Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given 1,000 square kilometres of territory to China “without a fight”.

According to The Hindu, Mr Gandhi also asked the government to explain how the territory ceded to China will be retrieved?

The stand-off between the two neighbouring nations started on May 5, 2020, after a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas. The tensions reached the tipping point a month later when a hand-to-hand battle in 2020 left 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers dead.

As the conflict intensified, both sides moved tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy weaponry to the area.

From Miandad to Naseem: 5 Pakistan six-shooting heroes

Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah smashed Afghanistan left-arm seamer Fazalhaq Farooqi for successive sixes in the last over Wednesday to take his team to the final of the Asia Cup in a thrilling encounter.

AFP Sport looks at five memorable six-hitting moments in Pakistan’s cricketing history.

Mighty Miandad

Javed Miandad’s final ball six off India’s Chetan Sharma in the 1986 Austral-Asia Cup final at Sharjah still hurts India fans.

Needing 246 for victory, Pakistan were in trouble at 61-3 before Miandad struck an unbeaten 116 off 114 balls.

With four needed off the final delivery, India fast bowler Sharma bowled a full toss and Miandad slogged it high over the leg side and into the crowd to trigger wild celebrations.

Mujtaba leveller

A left-handed gutsy middle-order batsman, Asif Mujtaba took on Australia’s bowlers in a 50-over World Series match in 1992 and hit a six off the last ball from Steve Waugh to tie a dramatic game.

Chasing 228 for victory in Hobart, Pakistan slipped to 197-7 but Mujtaba stood firm and with 17 needed off the final over Australia skipper threw the ball to part-time seamer Waugh.

Mujtaba hit him to all parts and dispatched the last delivery, a full toss, over midwicket to level the scores.

‘Boom Boom’ Afridi

Shahid Afridi won many exciting games for Pakistan with his maverick batting but his two sixes off India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in a 2014 Asia Cup 50-over match remain special.

Pakistan, chasing 246, needed 10 when Ashwin started the 50th over by taking a wicket.

But Afridi smashed the off-spinner for two straight sixes to live up his ‘Boom Boom’ nickname as Pakistan won with one wicket and two balls to spare.

Asif arrives

Asif Ali was relatively unknown when he hit four straight sixes off Afghanistan’s Karim Janat to announce his arrival at last year’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Pakistan needed 26 off 18 balls when Asif walked in to bat.

Asif watched calmly from the non-striker’s end in the 18th over before smashing Janat over the ropes four times to take Pakistan home with an over to spare.

Naseem heroics

Naseem Shah became Pakistan’s newest six-hitting hero when he walked in to bat at number 10 with Pakistan needing 20 off 10 balls with just two wickets in hand in their chase of 130 against Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Pakistan lost Asif in the 19th over but Naseem kept his cool, with 12 needed off the last over, to smash Farooqi’s attempted yorkers for consecutive straight sixes over long-off.