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Thursday, 22 July 2021

FOX NEWS: Eric Shawn: Chaos in the cabin

Eric Shawn: Chaos in the cabin



The FAA reports increased cases of 'unruly airline passengers,' how flight attendants are grounding the culprits

via FOX NEWS https://ift.tt/3kMFlAm

बैतूल में ऑनर किलिंग:बेटी के साथ स्कूटी पर देख लिया था, गुस्साए पिता और नाबालिग बेटे ने प्रेमी को कुल्हाड़ी से काट डाला

17 जुलाई को मिले युवक के शव के मामले में खुलासा

from मध्य प्रदेश | दैनिक भास्कर https://ift.tt/3iCk6hY July 21, 2021 at 10:53PM https://ift.tt/3jtoDUl

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Government’s repeated reliance on foreign conspiracy theories endangers democracy

 Government’s repeated reliance on foreign conspiracy theories endangers democracy 

Detailing the BJP and its Minister’s extensive track record of blaming legitimate dissent and democratic criticism against it on foreign conspiracies, VINEET BHALLA explains how perpetual reliance on this trope can undermine democratic ethos.

—-

IN response to the explosive Pegasus Project revelations, Union Home Minister Amit Shah made a statement accusing the reports of being guided by vested interests meaning “to do whatever is possible and humiliate India at the world stage, peddle the same old narratives about our nation and derail India’s development trajectory.” He alleged that the report is “by the disrupters for the obstructers. Disrupters are global organisations that do not like India to progress. Obstructers are political players in India who do not want India to progress.”

Interestingly, nowhere in his statement does Shah question the veracity of the report.

Overused conspiracy of malevolent foreign hand

This is hardly the first time that the spectre of foreign conspiracy has been pulled up. Members of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) have been openly pushing myriad conspiracy theories ever since their party won a majority in the Lok Sabha elections and formed the government in 2014.

During his speech in the Indian Parliament’s Lok Sabha or Lower House, on February 9, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi spoke about a ‘Foreign Destructive Ideology’ plaguing the country, and the need to protect ourselves from it. This seems to be in reference to the expression of support for the farmers protesting around Delhi and of concern about them being barricaded off and being denied the supply of water, internet and electricity, by a spate of international celebrities on social media platforms.

A day earlier, in election campaign speeches in West Bengal and Assam, Modi had repeatedly made the seemingly baseless allegation that there is an international conspiracy to defame India and spoil its image, by attacking India’s identity linked with tea and its tradition of yoga.

Earlier in February, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, had in an unprecedented step, directly addressed these social media posts by private individuals by releasing a strongly worded statement that termed these comments a consequence of efforts by vested interest groups to “mobilize international support against India”.

Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar wrote on his Twitter account that India has the self-confidence to hold its own and push back against motivated campaigns targeting the country, and Shah posted on his Twitter page that no propaganda can deter India’s unity, stop it from attaining new heights or decide its fate and that India stands united to achieve progress.

The farmer’s movement itself has been denunciated by several BJP legislators, such as Union Minister Raosaheb Danve, as being driven by Pakistan and China.

Several BJP associates like its IT Chief Amit Malviya, national general secretary Dushyant Kumar Gautam, and Member of Parliament Jaskaur Meena, have falsely accused the protests of being staged by Khalistani sympathizers; this claim was also made by the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal before the Supreme Court of India.

Ridiculous claims

In October 2020, in the backdrop of the spontaneous outrage and protests over the horrifying gang rape and murder of a Dalit teenager and the terribly insensitive way in which the entire case was handled by the Uttar Pradesh (UP) State Government, its BJP Chief Minister Adityanath blamed opposition parties and “anti-national” elements with foreign funding for trying to destabilise the state. His government even began a probe into an alleged international conspiracy by foreigners to defame the government and foment caste violence.

In September 2020, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai offered the justification of “protecting national interests from foreign funds” in the Parliament for passing the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2020 that severely curtails the funding of NGOs by foreign funds

In February 2020, when the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) movement was at its peak in different parts of the country, Modi, in a speech, described the protests as a conspiracy by the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Aam Aadmi Party to destroy national harmony and engage in “politics of hate”. Later that month, Surendra Singh, a BJP state legislator from UP, described the anti-CAA protests as a global conspiracy by Muslim countries to divide the country, and Giriraj Singh, a BJP Union Minister, accused Pakistan of conspiring to foment the anti-CAA protests in Delhi.

In September 2018, another Union Minister, BJP’s Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, had dismissed the INC’s questioning of the controversial Rafale jet fighter deal as part of an international conspiracy against India to defeat PM Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The then Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, too, had alleged that there was an “international dimension” to the INC’s “smear campaign”.

Earlier in that year, the Pune city police, in the then-BJP run state of Maharashtra, had charged the academics and activists arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case of being part of a grand Maoist conspiracy to assassinate PM Modi and overthrow the government using weapons procured from Russia and China; this claim has been repeated by BJP spokespersons.

Till date, the trial in the case is yet to commence, and the detainees have been languishing in jail for as long as over three years in some cases, with one of the co-accused, Father Stan Swamy, passing away in custody earlier this month due to contracting COVID-19 while imprisoned.

Also read: Stan Swamy’s death: Representative of the worst of our criminal justice system or portent of a new norm?

(Investigation by an American digital forensics analysis agency earlier this year revealed that the evidence of the conspiracy to assassinate Modi found in the computers of two of the accused, activist Rona Wilson, and lawyer Surendra Gadling, was planted using spyware. The Pegasus revelations have also uncovered that several of the accused and their close associated and family members were snooping targets.)

In 2017, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had said at a seminar organised by the Delhi BJP, in reference to the outrage over the increasing incidents of lynching of members from minority religious communities, that a conspiracy was being hatched against Hindus, PM Modi and the nation to gain political mileage in the name of intolerance and lynching incidents, due to the government’s regulation of foreign funding of NGOs.

In 2016, Modi had, while addressing a farmers’ rally in the state of Odisha, claimed that foreign-funded NGOs and black-marketeers were conspiring to defame him and destabilize the Union government for being regulated and held accountable.

The  BJP also regularly invokes the demonstrably false bogey of an international conspiracy behind propagating ‘love jihad’ (which has now been criminalised in UP by an ordinance, with several other BJP-ruled states promising to go the same route).

Also read: The Politics of Love Jihad and its Constitutional Validity

One would imagine that by going to the foreign conspiracy well so often, the BJP would eventually run it into the ground, turning it into a caricature. Contrarily, this has become so normalised that now the default strategy of anyone associated with or supporting the BJP to respond to criticism of the party’s policies is to question the critics’ motives and implicate them as actors in international machinations.

Clearly, this is the blueprint of the BJP’s preferred troubleshooting approach: when in crisis, deflect blame on an imaginary enemy conspiring against the government’s agenda, colour itself as a self-righteous, noble victim that is carrying out the hard work of ‘developing’ the nation, and offers scant, if any, basis for such claims. 

After all, despite repeated assertions over the years of international conspiracies against India and its Union Government, there has been no substantive investigation carried into these claims or evidence unearthed by any of India’s investigative agencies or by anyone in the BJP. We are neither told who these international powers conspiring against India are (Pakistan and China are routinely and vaguely mentioned since they are our perpetual ‘enemy’ states), nor why they’re conspiring against us, nor how they exactly plan to break up the country.

While nefarious and dangerous to our democratic ethos, this is neither novel nor original.

The reliance on the ‘foreign hand’ conspiracy by leaders in India and across the world 

The conspiracy theory of the ‘foreign hand’ has been a fixation through much of India’s political history, from former PM Indira Gandhi blaming it for the protest movement against her government that had sprung across the country between 1972 and 1975 in the lead-up to her declaration of the Emergency, and former PM Rajiv Gandhi faulting it for impeding India’s development, to the previous PM Dr. Manmohan Singh accusing NGOs funded by US and Scandinavian countries for fomenting the popular opposition to the setting up of a nuclear power plant in Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu, and to an INC Parliamentarian seeing a BJP-created politically-motivated conspiracy with foreign handlers behind the India Against Corruption movement of 2011.

This canard has also been a tool of choice of several contemporary authoritarian leaders across the world.

There are enough examples. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan complaining about an international conspiracy to limit Turkey’s power and influence abroad and damage its economy

 

North Korea shrugging off scrutiny of its atrocious human rights record by the United Nations as interference in its internal matters.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsanaro fanning the enduring conspiracy theory in the South American nation of an international communist plot to destroy Brazil.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin-led government using the pretext of foreign meddling to quell environmental and political protests.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s legal team claiming that a vast international conspiracy had fixed the last U.S. Presidential elections for the winning candidate, Joe Biden, the current U.S. President. (This was just one of the numerous conspiracy theories Trump floated before and during his presidential term).

Finally, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte accusing independent human rights and media organisations of plotting to oust his government.

Show me an ultranationalist authoritarian leader, and I’ll show you a popular hoax about foreign powers trying to destabilize that leader’s government.

Ultranationalism relies on conspiracy theories about imaginary enemies

It is clear why this is such a frequently used rhetorical device. Ultranationalism, after all, hinges on a steady supply of alleged enemies to settle scores against, and a mythical emphasis on an organic unity between a charismatic leader and the nation.

When you paint your political opponent as an unpatriotic, foreign-sponsored bad faith actor out to destroy the nation, you don’t have to deal with substantive questions of policy raised by them. You end up distracting the public attention from the real issue at hand by putting up an alarmist scenario about the stability of the government and create a narrative debating the legitimacy of the opposition critique, rather than about your own policy failures.

In such a context, it becomes easy to implore citizens to rally and stand together against these amorphous evil foreign forces, to stop criticising the government and put up a united front because doing otherwise would be playing into the hands of these international agents of chaos, to put up with relatively minor material inconveniences in the face of a larger national existential threat, and adopt a uniform political ideology in support of the government (which is projected as equivalent to the nation). 

All these are empty words, of course, that dissolve at the merest of rational scrutiny. However, when repeatedly advanced by charismatic, popular leaders and echoed by an entirely pliant news media system, these claims start appearing credible to a large number of people in our post-truth world. Little wonder, then, that the BJP and Modi continue to enjoy massive popularity across the country, and keep stringing electoral victories in spite of a track record of costly policy failures.

Also read: Probe into larger conspiracy behind sexual harassment complaint against ex-CJI Gogoi closed

The hazard of the government perpetuating conspiracy theories

However, constant flooding of the political narrative with blatantly false conspiracy theories has deleterious consequences.

Dehumanizing your critics as agents of a shadowy anti-national international plot ends up legitimizing not only the dismissal of their legitimate grievances by the public but also punitive actions, including the threat of violence by non-State vigilante actors, against them. Polarized consumers of these conspiracy theories don’t just accept the silencing of these protestors as appropriate, but even as part of their duties as patriotic citizens.

We have already seen rumblings of the same in India over the past few years, be it the attempted shootings by armed young men at the anti-CAA protestors in Delhi last year, exhorted by BJP Ministers and leaders leading chants of ‘desh ke gadaaron ko, goli maaro saalo ko [shoot the bloody traitors of the country]’, or the recent stone-pelting by purported locals at the Singhu border of Delhi at protesting farmers.

Events from earlier this year at the Capitol Hill in Washington DC offer a chilling vision of how easily even a few hundred citizens fed on a constant drip of false conspiracy theories can upend fragile democratic institutions when, in their alternative realities, their supreme leader is wronged and their nation threatened.

With a ruling party leadership that seemingly sees every problem as a PR problem and doesn’t care about anything but the optics, India is headed down a perilous path.

The Union Government would be better served to focus on governance and the politics of progress that they ostensibly espouse, as opposed to image management. After all, the best, albeit most difficult way, of managing optics is to resolve popular grievances and keep citizens happy.

Rather than dismissing the Pegasus Project’s disturbing revelations, it should commit to initiating an independent probe to uncover the truth of the allegations.

(Vineet Bhalla is a Delhi-based lawyer and sub-editor with The Leaflet. This article is an updated version of a previous article written by him for Countercurrents.org. The views expressed are personal.)

SOURCE ;  .theleaflet.in


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Flipside of new human trafficking bill

 Flipside of new human trafficking bill 

 

Despite the new bill expanding the scope and territorial jurisdiction of offences, sex workers fear losing livelihood with the conflation of trafficking and their profession, argues VASANTH ADITHYA. J

    —–

The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021, which will be likely tabled during the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament, could snatch the livelihood of sex workers by conflating human trafficking with their profession.

The Bill proposes a common law that would bring into its ambit all forms of human trafficking, including sexual exploitation, indentured labour, slavery, sexual servitude and organ trade.

Ample Laws, Increasing Incidents

Article 23 of the Constitution explicitly prohibits and criminalises all kinds and forms of human trafficking, forced labour, and establishes the fundamental rights against exploitation of every citizen. Further, The Indian Penal Code, 1860, punishes procurement of any minor girl (Section 366A), import of girls from a foreign country (Section 366B), buying or disposing of any person as a slave (Section 370) and buying and selling a minor for prostitution (Section 372 and 373).

Notwithstanding a plethora of penal provisions, the National Crime Records Bureau reported 2,260 cases of trafficking involving around 13,376 people in 2019 with several cases either not reported or under the guise of forced marriages and bonded labour. 

There has been a steep increase in trafficking involving commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude of children and women during the pandemic, according to reports. To tackle the problem, the Ministry of Home Affairs directed the states and Union Territories to establish Anti-Human trafficking Units (AHTUs) with special police and other officers to tackle the problem. However, a recent report shows that 16 states have the AHTUs only on paper and only 27% of them are functional.

Also read: 225 anti-human-trafficking units in India exist only on paper

Time to repeal the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956

In pursuance of signing the United Nations International Convention for the ‘Suppression of Women in Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation in Others’ in New York on 9 May 1950, Parliament enacted the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, which conflates trafficking with prostitution.

The ITPA has been used to curb prostitution by incarcerating the woman, curbing her freedom and denying her agency. The ITPA has neither any provision for rehabilitating sex workers, who are often ironically rescued without their consent, nor compensating or providing them health facilities.

The Bombay High Court in a judgment in September 2020 reiterated that prostitution is not an offence and an adult woman has the right to choose her vocation and added there is no provision under the law that makes prostitution per se a criminal offence or punishes a person because she indulges in prostitution. 

There have been multiple calls in the last two decades for repealing the ITPA. Every citizen has the right to reside at a place of his/her choice, move freely throughout the country and chose a vocation as enshrined in Part III, Fundamental Rights, of the Constitution. It is high time that this archaic statute is rescinded.

Also read: Why it’s time to repeal and replace the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act with new law

What does the new bill say?

The new bill aims to prevent trafficking and provide care and protection to victims. It also differs from the 2018 Bill regarding jurisdiction and stringent penal provisions. The Bill has expanded the territorial jurisdiction of offences with cross-border implications and also widened the definition of a victim to include the transgender.

Once the Bill becomes an Act, the Centre will be mandated to set up a National Anti-Trafficking Committee and the state governments will also form such committees at state and district levels.

The Bill also empowers the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to act as the apex body to prevent and combat trafficking. The draft Bill provides for rehabilitation of trafficked people, which is absent under Section 370 of the IPC, and also imposes economic sanctions, including invoking of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.  

Death Penalty for Offence under the new Bill

The Bill proposes rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years which may by extended to ten years in case of trafficking. Aggravated forms of trafficking which may result in death are proposed to be punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 300,000.

The new Bill also proposes the death penalty for certain offences despite studies proving that capital punishment does not deter crimes, more specifically in cases of prostitution, where it is a question of livelihood. 

“The person shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for twenty years, but which may extend to life, or in case of second or subsequent conviction with death, and with fine which may extend up to thirty lakh rupees,” the draft says.

For deterrence to be effective, the severity of the punishment has to be simultaneous with its certainty and swiftness. Studies have proved that death penalty has not deterred terrorism, murder, or even theft.

Overlapping laws and absence of rescue protocol

The new law does not clarify the applicability of the already existing laws on forced labour and sexual exploitation, leading to confusion and overlapping—this is all the more a reason for repealing outdated laws and having one comprehensive code.

The Bill also does not provide for a rescue protocol except for the term “Reason to believe” by the police officer, which is ambiguous and assigns power and discretion on the cop. This makes the role of AHTU’s obscure in rescue and post-rescue operations.

Criminalisation of sex work and consent made irrelevant

Sex workers, NGOs, and community-based organisations feel that the Bill still views prostitution with a cultural and moral lens thereby criminalising the profession.


Trafficking and sex work are two distinct things and criminalisation of prostitution is unconstitutional. The Bill has included prostitution and pornography in the definition of exploitation while making the issue of consent irrelevant.  The Bill still retains the colonial and patriarchal tinge of considering women not competent enough to have consent over their bodies and vocation.

Overburdening NIA and lack of time for Public Consultation

With the aim of curbing cross-border trafficking, the Bill has vested powers on the already-burdened NIA to tackle such offences. The Bill is silent on the role of NIA as compared to police jurisdiction in cases of rescue operations.

Besides, associations and civil societies have alleged that the time given for public consultation is too less (two weeks) given the fact that the draft Bill is available only in English, which requires time to be translated in order to be discussed with the stakeholders.   

Need for systemic change and sensitisation

The effective functioning of the criminal justice system is the key to curb trafficking. Filling up vacancies, assigning special units and prosecutors are pivotal to increase the conviction rate. The representation of women in the police force is a dismal 10%, which calls for their increased recruitment. Most importantly, the police force needs to be sensitised to cases of trafficking. Therefore, the Bill should address the concerns of the marginalised and the vulnerable.

(Vasanth Adithya. J is a practising advocate at the High Court of Karnataka and the author of ‘Conceptual Foundations of Competition Law in India’. The views expressed are personal.)

 SOURCE ; theleaflet.in


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Modi accused of spying on opposition rival Gandhi using Israeli spyware

 Indian PM Narendra Modi has been accused of “treason” and spying on his main political rival, Rahul Gandhi, following reports of surveillance of Indian politicians, journalists, activists and government critics using Israeli-made #spyware.


 SOURCE ; TRT WORLD

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It’s still too early too herald a Taliban victory in Afghanistan

The Taliban doesn't have the capacity or capabilities to retain the territories it captures. However, Afghanistan could be headed towards a military impasse that will either force the parties to find a political solution or drag it to a civil war.

Despite the Taliban’s rapid territorial gains amid the US withdrawal and a stalled peace process, Afghanistan’s military takeover by the Taliban is neither imminent nor inevitable. 

A new balance of power is emerging in Afghanistan amid a fluid and volatile strategic environment, which will take shape in the next several months. Trend lines currently emerging in Afghanistan are reverse-prone and should be observed carefully without jumping to premature conclusions.

While the Afghan National Defense Security Forces’ (ANDSF) melting away in several districts is concerning, they have held their positions in Afghanistan’s urban areas where the centre of gravity of the country’s post-US future lies. 

The Taliban’s gains are the natural outcome of the massive security vacuum created by the US’ exit and ANDSF’s weakness, rather than the former’s strength. 

Since May, the Taliban have taken over 150 districts, mainly in the north and the west, giving them the control of one-third of Afghanistan. The Taliban’s territorial gains also include control of key border crossings such as Islam Qala near Iran, Spin Boldak with Pakistan, Sher Khan Bandar dry port adjacent to Tajikistan and the Wakhan Corridor near China. 

This has generated tremendous social media propaganda, giving the insurgent group an edge in psychological warfare. 

Concurrently, well-orchestrated videos of a handful of people welcoming the Taliban into captured districts — produced for social media consumption — generate an image that may not truly reflect Afghanistan’s complex realities on the ground.

Namely that the Taliban neither have the operational strength nor the conventional military muscle required to take and hold areas. 

According to a UN report, the Taliban has between 58,000 and 100,000 fighters. Though the Taliban is good at insurgent and guerrilla warfare, which enabled it to force the US to negotiate the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, it lacks the conventional wherewithal to retain control of the territory it is taking in different parts of Afghanistan. 

For instance, the Taliban briefly captured Badghis province’s capital Qala-e-Naw, however, it was forced out of the area in  two to three days. Likewise, in 2015, the Taliban made two failed attempts to take Kunduz city.  

Hence, the Taliban’s capacity to retain territories is dubious at best.

At this juncture, the ANDSF are strategically prioritising what is defendable instead of what is desirable — protecting the entire territoriality of Afghanistan. They are retreating to more formidable positions to strengthen the defences of the provincial capitals, populations centres and the main cities. So far, they have successfully guarded the frontlines of the cities, frustrating and repulsing the Taliban’s territorial advances. 

Keeping in view Afghanistan’s volatile security environment, the ANDSF have adopted a pragmatic approach. From the military-strategic perspective, it makes sense to cut military losses by abandoning vulnerable districts and fortifying the security of more strategically important population centres.

At the political-strategic level, however, the ANDSF retreats not only fuel the Taliban’s propaganda warfare of territorial gains but generates a false sense of the coming Taliban victory as well. 

Likewise, the territorial gains also narrow the Kabul-ANDSF power differential by giving the former the control of the abandoned US Humvees, weapons and thinning of the latter through surrenders and defections.   

In the late 1980s, Dr Najibullah’s government survived in office for three years, despite the Afghan mujahideen groups’ impressive military victories. If Kabul can defend urban Afghanistan and the US and Western assistance is not discontinued, the Taliban will soon exhaust themselves militarily and realise the limitations of their military power.

Arguably, the Taliban’s military exhaustion could lead to an escalatory deadlock in the next two to three months, impressing upon both sides that they cannot impose a military solution over the other. The impasse will either force both sides to talk to each other to find a political solution or dig in their heels by prolonging the conflict and pushing Afghanistan towards a civil war.

A prolonged civil war will have no winners or losers. Instead, it will plunge Afghanistan into a Syria-like situation where the deadlock between the Bashar al Assad regime and the opposition allowed regional countries and non-state violent actors to exploit the never-ending stalemate. The presence of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State Khorasan (Daesh) exposes Afghanistan to a similar trajectory in a prolonged civil war scenario.

With the US withdrawal, Afghanistan is at a crossroads yet again where peace and conflict are equidistant. A calibrated and mature political approach can pave the way for peace with proactive diplomacy of regional and international stakeholders. On the contrary, a rigid and self-serving approach will push Afghanistan towards an endless conflict.

Given its location at the intersection of the South and Central Asian regions, Afghanistan can become a stumbling block to regional connectivity, negatively impacting other regional countries with its instability. 

Alternatively, it could become a hub of transit trade and an energy corridor to mega projects like CASA-1000 and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

Around 67 percent of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of 25. Most of them were born after the Taliban’s self-styled theocratic regime in Afghanistan was toppled. Hence, they are alien to the idea of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. 

On the contrary, this generation has been exposed to democracy, formal education and professional careers in the last two decades. They will resist anything which is imposed on them against their democratic will. A government formed at gunpoint will bring neither peace and stability nor survive in office for a long time.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to opinion.editorial@trtworld.com

Source: TRT World

The author is a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore.

SOURCE ; TRT WORLD

 

Social media is bold. 

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 Social media is interested in every detail.

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But never irrelevant.

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What is South Africa’s ‘inevitable showdown’ really about?

 

This crisis presents the chance for the government to accelerate the undoing of the country’s corruption and apartheid inheritance — otherwise risk its survival.

The scenes of looting, destruction and apparent protest witnessed after the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma lead to one point: the showdown in South Africa was inevitable and necessary from the moment we realised the depth of corruption and state capture and that our leaders needed to be held accountable as a precondition for renewing the African National Congress (ANC) and revitalising our country.

There is no doubt that, fundamentally, South Africa’s economic and social inequality is an inheritance from Apartheid, and because of that, we remain a fragile society that requires not self-serving leadership, but one that demonstrates it’s hard at work uniting and developing the country with integrity and competence, rewarding the patience of the poor (mostly Black) and regulating commitment from the rich (mostly white). 

In the absence of these, a revisionist narrative has emerged claiming that Nelson Mandela and his cohorts sold out in 1994, rubbishing a century of heroic struggle. This narrative ignores that we merely won a beachhead and that our first priority was to prevent counter-revolution, otherwise we would be telling — as in Egypt — our story from jails and graveyards.

Our cohesion weakened when leaders themselves wanted power and riches immediately, setting off a culture of impunity.

The ANC’s Polokwane Conference was the political fountainhead that gave impunity a political form – populism: to die or kill for a leader; to malign a woman for reporting rape; to seduce the politically restless and economically vulnerable with Radical Economic Transformation all while carrying out the most heinous acts of corruption. 

This was preceded by subverting institutions: security institutions to escape accountability, then economic entities for capture, culminating in the storming of the Treasury. 

The volatility was endemic: “service delivery” protests about the distribution of basic resources like water, electricity and housing accompanied the sense that government was corrupt and incompetent. We denied and tolerated the xenophobia underpinning repeated attacks on foreign nationals. The increasingly violent nature of crime spoke of a decentering of our morality. 

But all of these needed a cause and a spark. Could it be the apparent martyrdom of Jacob Zuma?

The most comforting outcome of the last decade is that the Constitution and its institutions buckled but did not break: our judiciary remained activist in instinct; our previous Public Protector gave her office some teeth; our media remained investigative and a worthy watchdog; and civil society occupied their constitutional space and remained vigilant. 

All of these were instrumental in the fightback against corruption and state capture and culminated in the Zondo Commission, forcing the ANC itself to start dealing with these phenomena.

But ANC leadership itself was the theatre of conflict. The ANC, in its century of existence, has often faced many crises, but never faced a moral, even existential, crisis like now. 

Jacob Zuma ascended to power with a motley coalition of contradictory forces stapled together by common injury. The ANC was not just morally compromised, but organisationally re-peopled by the avaricious and strategically re-purposed to serve the state capture agenda. 

The depth of this fundamental denaturing of the ANC will indicate whether it could be salvaged. The ANC has begun its renewal under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa, and has understood that unless it is unequivocal about corruption, it will not survive. 

Until now, the ANC balance of forces was far too even, and shifting it meant neutralising Zuma’s original enablers: expelling the populists, like those who formed the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party; and building cases against those who think themselves too big to fail, like Zuma and his chief enforcer, Ace Magashule. 

The state also had the painstaking task of unpeopling Zuma’s appointments in, for example, law enforcement, so that proper investigations, credible cases and deserved punishments could be mounted.

When their high priest, Jacob Zuma, was jailed, and they feared they would soon follow, the populists attempted a last and desperate showdown. They lit a powder keg of looting and destruction — driven through criminal violence — among already devastated people, while other operatives sought to devastate economic infrastructure, like the ports and refineries — an attempt at counter-revolutionary violence. 

This moment in South African politics is a watershed: Will impunity be tolerated or reversed? Can such extremism be appeased or must it be defeated? Are there peaceful options or must the nation brace for more bravado and force? And must the ANC continue to prioritise purification and renewal over unity and sentiment? 

This is what the showdown is about, and its price is already high. 

The hesitant, delayed, uncertain response from the state has many possible causes: from the cynical (can ministers and officials themselves in the firing line for corruption act decisively?) to the pessimistic (has the state been so fundamentally denuded of resources, talent and capability that it could not mount a counter-offensive?) to the procedural (the state needed parliament to permit the use of the military).

But after a week of anarchy, a plan is emerging. The state is deploying 25,000 soldiers to quell the looting. Legal action is being prepared for both key instigators and ordinary looters so that impunity no longer goes unpunished. 

The rump of South Africa’s security and law enforcement agencies remain loyal, even if somewhat flat-footed. But the showdown is being met. 

This must be the opportunity to purify the ANC and rid it of the corrupt and the compromised, but must be accompanied by a comprehensive economic recovery from South Africa’s pre-Covid-19 recession and the coronavirus-induced economic crisis, as well as the devastation of corruption and state capture. 

This is a moment of thoughtful policy review that must also accelerate the undoing of our Apartheid inheritance – neither desperately populist nor blindly orthodox – but using a global moment of review about the faultlines revealed by Covid-19. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have gained in confidence and courage, and appears up for the fight. He has to succeed otherwise South Africa goes down the path from fragile to failed state. 

The president knows this is the price of failure, and he now knows that the balance of forces in the ANC and society is in his favour, therefore slowly gaining control over the levers of power in the ANC, in government and society.


Source: TRT World
 
 

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Thousands protest in Colombia on Independence Day over tax reform plan

 

Tax reform is the issue that in April sparked mass nationwide protests that left more than 60 people dead and the Colombian government is facing accusations of use of excessive force.

Demonstrators gather during anti-government protests, as Colombia commemorates Independence Day, in Bogota, Colombia July 20, 2021.
Demonstrators gather during anti-government protests, as Colombia commemorates Independence Day, in Bogota, Colombia July 20, 2021. (Reuters)

Thousands of Colombians have returned to the streets to protest against President Ivan Duque's government, which submitted a new tax reform plan to Congress.

Protesters in several cities on Tuesday marked Colombia's independence day by demanding police reform and greater support from the government in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen the poverty rate rise from 37 to 42 percent in the country of 50 million.

Demonstrators and riot police clash during anti-government protests, as Colombia commemorates Independence Day, in Bogota, Colombia July 20, 2021.
Demonstrators and riot police clash during anti-government protests, as Colombia commemorates Independence Day, in Bogota, Colombia July 20, 2021. (Reuters)

"I hope that finally Congress will start to legislate in favor of the interests of all Colombians and not just a group of individuals that are getting rich," Ivan Zapata, a 46-year-old dentist protesting in Bogota, told AFP.

Clashes between riot police and demonstrators, some armed with machetes, left dozens of civilians injured in the cities of Medellin and Cali, while 20 police officers were also injured, according to officials. The government described the protests as largely peaceful.


 

The demonstrations were called by the influential National Strike Committee that represents indigenous people, trade unions and students, among others.

The group had suspended its protests on June 15 but vowed to kick them off again on the nation's independence day with the aim of taking demonstrators' demands to Congress.

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against the government of Colombian President Ivan Duque in Cali, Colombia on July 20, 2021.
Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against the government of Colombian President Ivan Duque in Cali, Colombia on July 20, 2021. (AFP)

"We're fighting for the recognition of our rights to health, education, and no violence," said Noelia Castro, a 30-year-old teacher in the capital.

The government presented a new tax reform plan to Congress on Tuesday, one that lacked the controversial clauses that caused such uproar three months ago.

Gone are the increases in value-added tax on some goods and the broadened income tax paying base.

 


Instead, the new plan removes certain tax exemptions introduced by Duque himself in 2019, increases income tax for businesses and adds a three percent surcharge on the financial sector.

The plan aims to generate $3.9 billion, a long way shy of the $6.3 billion the government had hoped to raise through its previous plan that would have hit the middle classes hard.

"We listen to the voices in the streets and they must nurture the debates, but you are called by history to be the spokespeople for a country in transformation," Duque said in the Congress ceremony, which was brought forward by several hours in a bid to avoid confrontations with protesters.

Police reform was also due on the agenda in the legislature.

The government previously announced two projects that seek to change the police promotion system and its disciplinary regulations.

Protesters have demanded greater reforms, though, including the disbanding of the anti-riot unit and the removal of the institution from the defence ministry's sphere of responsibility.

Colombia will hold legislative elections in March and a presidential poll in May 2022.

 Source: TRTWorld and agencies

 

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Nigeria police secure release of 100 villagers kidnapped for over a month

 

Zamfara police say armed gangs released 100 Manawa village residents, including children, after 42 days following negotiations.

Security forces patrol as people wait for the arrival of rescued schoolgirls in Jangebe, Zamfara, Nigeria March 3, 2021.
Security forces patrol as people wait for the arrival of rescued schoolgirls in Jangebe, Zamfara, Nigeria March 3, 2021. (Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters)

One hundred kidnapped villagers in northwest Nigeria's Zamfara State have been freed after 42 days in captivity.

Nigerian police said it had secured their release on Tuesday following negotiations with their abductors.

The villagers, including women and children, had been kidnapped on July 8 when gunmen stormed Manawa village and took them to their forest hideout, according to Mohammed Shehu, a spokesperson for Zamfara state police. 

While hostages are usually released after ransom payment, with those whose families fail to pay often being killed by the captors, the spokesperson said that this time, the release was "unconditional" and had been secured "without giving any financial or material gain" to the gang, AFP news agency reported.

A source familiar with the negotiations told AFP the bandits agreed to release the kidnapped villagers after the police and state authorities "assured them no action would be taken against them for the kidnapping".

The released hostages would undergo medical checks before being reunited with their families, Shehu said.

Nigeria's abduction industry

Heavily armed gangs, commonly described as "bandits", have long plagued northwest and central Nigeria by looting, stealing cattle and abducting for ransom. Militants from the Boko Haram group have also carried out attacks, which very often take place on soft targets like schools.

More than 1,100 people were killed in the first half of 2020 alone, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Bandit gangs operate from camps in the vast Rugu forest, which cuts across Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna states in Nigeria, as well as neighbouring Niger.

Nigeria's air force has in the past attacked bandit camps while some northern states have sought to negotiate by offering amnesties in return for disarmament.

But both military deployment and attempted peace deals have failed to end the violence.


Failing to protect children's right to education

Mass abductions of civilians, particularly schoolchildren, have become commonplace in Nigeria as gangs and militants seek to extort ransom money from parents.

On July 5, more than 100 Nigerian children were taken from Bethel Baptist High School in Nigeria's northwestern state of Kaduna. Gunmen raided their dormitories and herded them into the forest.

Mass school abductions have soared this year, with almost 1,000 students kidnapped, according to UNICEF. 

Most are released after negotiations but many, including the Bethel boarding school pupils, are still being held in forest hideouts.

Nigerian political risk analysis group SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence estimated last year that at least $18.34m was paid to kidnappers as ransom between June 2011 and March 2020. 

The larger proportion of that figure (just below $11 million), was paid out between January 2016 and March 2020, indicating that kidnapping is becoming more lucrative, their report said.

Amnesty International has criticised the Nigerian government for failing to protect children and their right to education, as more than 600 schools have been shut for fear of abductions seven years since 279 schoolgirls were abducted by the armed group Boko Haram in Chibok. 

According to the human rights group, a "lack of justice and accountability" has led to an escalation of attacks.

On Monday, 13 policemen were killed in Zamfara state when they were ambushed by a gang as they deployed to protect a village from imminent attack.


Source: TRTWorld and agencies
 
 

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Heads of state on NSO spyware potential target list include Macron, Khan

 

Among potential targets found on a list of 50,000 phone numbers leaked to Amnesty and nonprofit Forbidden Stories include Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France, Imran Khan of Pakistan, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Barham Salih of Iraq.

In this file photo taken on August 28, 2016, an Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.
In this file photo taken on August 28, 2016, an Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron leads a list of 14 current or former heads of state who may have been targeted for hacking by clients of the notorious Israeli spyware firm NSO Group.

“The unprecedented revelation ... should send a chill down the spine of world leaders," Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said in a statement.

Potential targets found on a list of 50,000 phone numbers leaked to Amnesty and the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories include Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Barham Salih of Iraq. 

King Mohammed VI of Morocco and three current prime ministers — Imran Khan of Pakistan, Mustafa Madbouly of Egypt and Saad Eddine El Othmani of Morocco — are also on the list, The Washington Post and Guardian reported.

 

The Post said none of the heads of state would offer their smartphones for forensic testing that might have detected whether they were infected by NSO's military-grade Pegasus spyware. 

Thirty-seven phones identified in the investigation were either breached or shows signs of attempted infection, it reported.

The Post and 16 other members of a global media consortium were granted access to the leaked list. Another member, the French daily Le Monde, determined that 15 members of the French government may have been among potential targets with Macron in 2019.

Following first reports by consortium members on Sunday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said it was investigating the suspected widespread use of NSO's military-grade Pegasus spyware to target journalists, human rights activists and politicians in multiple countries.


 

NSO using US hosting services

Also Sunday, Amnesty released a forensic analysis of the alleged targeting that showed Amazon Web Services was hosting NSO infrastructure. 

In response, Amazon said it shut down NSO accounts that were “confirmed to be supporting the reported hacking activity.” Amazon said the accounts had violated its terms of use.

Another US company identified by Amnesty as hosting NSO servers was DigitalOcean. 

When contacted by The Associated Press, DigitalOcean neither confirmed nor denied whether it had identified or cut off such servers.

"All of the infrastructure outlined in the Amnesty report is no longer on DigitalOcean," it said on Tuesday, without elaborating, in an emailed statement.

The consortium's findings significantly widen the scope of alleged abuses in which NSO Group has been implicated since 2016. 

Those include the surveillance of friends and relatives of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 — and highlight what critics call the urgent need to regulate global sales of commercial hacking tools.

NSO denies targeting Macron

Le Monde said the phone numbers for Macron and the then-government members were among thousands allegedly selected by NSO clients for potential surveillance. 

In this case, the client was an unidentified Moroccan security service, according to Le Monde.

Consortium members said they were able to link more than 1,000 numbers in 50 countries on the list with individuals, including more than 600 politicians and government officials and 189 journalists. The largest share were in Mexico and the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia is reported to be among NSO clients.

Also on the list were phone numbers in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Morocco and Rwanda, as well as ones for several Arab royal family members, the consortium reported.

An official in Macron's office said authorities would investigate Le Monde's report, and if the targeting is proven, it would be “extremely grave.”

Le Monde quoted NSO as saying the French president was never targeted by its clients.

NSO Group has denied that it ever maintained “a list of potential, past or existing targets.” 

It called the Forbidden Stories report “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories.”

The source of the leak — and how it was authenticated — has not been disclosed. 

While a phone number’s presence in the data does not mean an attempt was made to hack a device, the consortium said it was confident the data indicated potential targets of NSO’s government clients.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said in a statement Tuesday that it opened an investigation into a raft of potential charges, including violation of privacy, illegal use of data and illegally selling spyware.

As is common under French law, the investigation doesn’t name a suspected perpetrator but is aimed at determining who might eventually be sent to trial. It was prompted by a legal complaint by two journalists and French investigative website Mediapart.

Multiple lawsuits by alleged victims have been filed against NSO Group including by Facebook over the Israeli firm's alleged hacking of its WhatsApp application. 


Source: TRTWorld and agencies
 
 

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