Weekly Global Newscast | May 19 - May 26, 2019


Pakistan Military Says it Test-Fired Ballistic Missile Shaheen-II

Pakistan’s military confirmed it effectively led a test of its surface-to-surface ballistic missile equipped for conveying an atomic warhead, a day after the country’s foreign minister emphasized an idea to India to continue harmony talks. The test led a day after India conducted second test of air-launch version of Brahmos missile.


The Shaheen-II missile, test-fired on Thursday, can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads to a range of up to 1,500km, the military said. “The training launch was aimed at ensuring operational readiness of Army Strategic Forces Command,” said a military statement released on Thursday. The test comes as tensions between India and Pakistan remain high after a military standoff earlier this year that saw both countries launch air attacks on each other’s territory, in which an Indian fighter jet was shot down in an aerial dogfight. India launched its attack on Pakistani soil on February 26, days after a deadly attack in Pulwama in Indian-administered Kashmir earlier that month that Indian authorities blamed on Pakistan. India claimed to have destroyed a training camp run by armed group Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), but an Al Jazeera visit to the site revealed little evidence to support the claim. At least four Indian bombs appeared to land close to a JeM-run school, wounding one man. Pakistan denied any involvement in the Pulwama suicide bombing, and launched retaliatory attacks on February 27, targeting unpopulated areas as a show of force. Thursday’s test was conducted to reiterate Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence posture, military spokesperson Asif Ghafoor said in a statement. “Shaheen-II fully meets Pakistan’s strategic needs towards maintenance of desired deterrence stability in the region,” he tweeted, alongside a video of the test. Asad Hashim writes for Al Jazeera.

The test described Shaheen-II as a “highly capable missile, which fully meets Pakistan’s strategic needs towards maintenance of desired deterrence stability in the region”. The launch had its impact point in the Arabian Sea, Dawn newspaper reported citing ISPR. The launch was witnessed by the Director General of the Strategic Plans Division, Commander Army Strategic Forces Command Lt. Gen. Qazi Muhammad Ikram Ahmad and senior officers from the Army Strategic Forces Command, scientists and engineers of the strategic organizations. President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan extended their congratulations to scientists upon their achievement, the statement said. Associated press reported for Gulf News.

Bangladesh Blocks News Websites in Press Freedom Gag

Authorities in Bangladesh have blocked at least two popular vernacular news websites in the past two months, while no reasons were given for blocking of these websites. Later it was revealed that an administration security office issued the request to block Poriborton.com after it distributed a report bringing up issues about the financing behind a paper promotion against Muslim “militancy”.


Access to Poriborton.com was blocked on May 19, while Bangla.report was blocked by the government last month without any explanation. Abu Sufian, the managing editor of Poriborton.com, told Al Jazeera he was still in the dark about why the website was shut down. “No reasons were given to us. We contacted Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), but they said they didn’t block access to the website. We are still contacting other authorities to find out,” said Sufian. The editor of Bangla.report, Rafiqul Ranju, said the website was “probably blocked as an incumbent minister threatened to shut it down unless the website pulls a particular report”. “We didn’t remove that news and within hours access to our website was blocked,” said Ranju. “So we have considerable reason to believe that it was shut down with the order of that minister.” In recent months, authorities have shut down 54 news portals and websites, including that of the main opposition party, citing security reasons. They blocked access to Al Jazeera’s website in March after it published an article alleging the involvement of a senior defence official in the disappearance of three men. Access to Al Jazeera is still blocked in the South Asian nation.

Muslim groups condemned the advertisement, saying it described some signs of the Islamic faith as marks of radicalisation. On May 12, the advertisement, titled “Identification of terrorists”, was published in a number of Bangladeshi newspapers. A citizen platform called Sampriti Bangladesh was cited as the source behind it. Sampriti Bangladesh, however, denied any link with the advertisement in a press conference held on May 16. “Publication of such an advertisement is an evil attempt of the anti-Liberation War forces to mislead the nation through disseminating false information about our organisation. We have no link with this advertisement,” claimed its convener Pijush Bandyopadhyay.Based on the coverage of that press conference, Poriborton.com published a report titled “If not Pijush, who published the advert?” on May 16, following which access to it was blocked. Faisal Mahmud writes for Al Jazeera.

Middle East & North Africa

FIFA Shelves Plan to Expand 2022 World Cup to 48 Teams

World football administering body scraps intends to extend competition in Qatar from 32 teams, referring to ‘logistical’ issues. Football’s worldwide overseeing body FIFA has relinquished designs to extend the 2022 Qatar World Cup to 48 countries, choosing to stay with 32 nations as a result of the political and strategic complexities of utilizing another Gulf country.


FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s hopes of expanding the Middle East’s first World Cup in the region were stymied by the regional diplomatic crisis and the body’s demands on host nations to adhere to its human and labor rights requirements. That means the World Cup will not be expanded until 2026, with FIFA already having approved a format with 48 teams for that tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico. A meeting of the FIFA Council in March authorized Infantino to work with Qatar on seeing if it was feasible to use at least one more country in the region to accommodate 16 more matches and present a proposal at meetings in June. “Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now,” FIFA said in a statement on Wednesday. “Due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June. It was, therefore, decided not to further pursue this option.” A FIFA internal report had already concluded the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could not join as cohosts unless they restore the economic and travel ties with Qatar that were severed two years ago. The regional diplomatic crisis left neutral Kuwait – which acts as the mediator in the Gulf rift – and Oman as the viable options. Oman has said it is not eager on hosting games at the FIFA showpiece. Infantino visited Kuwait last month in an attempt to persuade it to host matches in 2022. But FIFA has now concluded it lacked to the time to prepare a country to host the extra games. Associated press reported for Al Jazeera.

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will remain at 32 teams, shelving a proposal that would have expanded the tournament to 48 teams for the first time. “Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now,” the statement read. FIFA and Qatar attempted to expand the tournament “by in particular lowering certain key FIFA requirements,” according to the statement, but “due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June.” “It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option,” FIFA said in the statement. Several obstacles prevented the expansion from occurring, including a blockade imposed on Qatar by neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, all of which would have been considered to be co-hosts to assist the small Arab country. Eric He writes for Yahoo Sports Contributor.

Sub Saharan Africa

DR Congo: Dozens Drown, Many Missing as Boat Sinks in Lake

Approximately 30 individuals passed away and dozens more are dreaded missing after a boat sank in a lake in western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The mishap happened late on Saturday at Lake Mai-Ndombe, close to the town of Lokanga.


“So far, we have recovered 30 bodies: 12 women, 11 children and seven men.” Simon Mbo Wemba, the mayor of Inongo, told media on Sunday. “The toll is still provisional,” the mayor added. It was not immediately known how many people were on board the vessel, but officials estimate several hundred were on board. Some 170 survivors were rescued from the lake. Boats in the DRC are usually overloaded with passengers and cargo, and official manifests do not include all those on board. Travel by boat is one of the most commonly used methods of transport in DRC, with the vast country’s thousands of kilometres of waterways linking areas that are otherwise unconnected by roads. But boat accidents are a frequent occurrence, with mishaps typically caused by the overloading of passengers and cargo on dilapidated vessels, some of which are not adequately stocked with life jackets. Dozens of people in eastern DRC died last month when a boat capsized after it left the city of Goma on Lake Kivu’s northern shore. Reuters reported for Al Jazeera

River transport is one of the most used in DR Congo with its numerous waterways. Boat mishaps are common, typically caused by overloading of passengers and cargo. Tolls are often high because there are no life jackets and many Congolese do not know how to swim. Last month at least 167 people died in two accidents prompting President Felix Tshisekedi to make it mandatory for boat passengers to have lifebuoys. Twenty-seven people were reported drowned in a boat sinking in September last year, 26 last July, another 50 last May, and 40 people in April whose boats sank as they fled fighting. Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country, the DR Congo is struggling with local conflicts, and in remote areas the control of the central government in Kinshasa is weak. Associated press reported to TRTWORLD.


Theresa May Steps down

Theresa May has reported her resignation following quite a while of gridlock and bedlam encompassing a few fizzled attempts to drive her European Union Withdrawal Agreement through parliament.


The British prime minister announced Friday that she plans to resign, after trying — and failing — to steer the United Kingdom through its divorce with the European Union. While this brings a close to her beleaguered premiership, it adds even more chaos to UK politics as the country tries to finalize its exit from the EU. May will not leave office immediately. She will step aside as leader of the Conservative Party on June 7, which will trigger a leadership contest to replace her on June 10. But she will stay on as prime minister until her successor is selected, at which point that person will become the prime minister without the need for a general election. A new prime minister was “in the best interests of the country,” May said in a statement in front of London’s 10 Downing Street. “It is and always will remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.” After calling on ministers to compromise on Brexit issues in the weeks ahead, she concluded her address while fighting back tears. “I will shortly leave the job that has been the honor of my life to hold … I do so with no ill will but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.” Jen Kirby writes for Vox.

The move came after a meeting with the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of her Conservative party backbenchers, which last week had forced her to say she would announce her departure date in June. In the end, May couldn’t hold on until June. “I have done my best to implement the result of the referendum,” she said outside 10 Downing Street, which has been her home since shortly after the UK voted by a narrow margin to leave the EU. “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back my deal,” May added. “It is a matter of deep regret that I have not delivered Brexit. My successor must find consensus in parliament.” Associated press reported to Al Jazeera.


Trump Welcomes Japan’s Efforts For Mediation With Iran

President Donald Trump on Monday sponsored the Japanese PM’s enthusiasm for utilizing his nation’s great relations with Iran to help further a conceivable discourse between the U.S. and its adversary in the Middle East.


Trump, who has said he’s open to having a dialogue with Iran, has sought to downplay fears of military conflict, but the Iranians have said they have no interest in communicating with the White House. Trump commented during a day that opened with the high pageantry of his meeting with Japan’s emperor but quickly gave way to deliberations over thorny global issues, including North Korea, trade tensions with his Japanese host and the escalating friction between the U.S. and Iran. “I know that the prime minister and Japan have a very good relationship with Iran so we’ll see what happens,” he said while meeting with Abe in Tokyo. “The prime minister’s already spoken to me about that and I do believe that Iran would like to talk. And if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also. We’ll see what happens … nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me.” Trump has imposed tough new sanctions on Iran, which are crippling its economy. Late last week, he announced the deployment of 1,500 U.S. troops to the region amid the tensions. The U.S. earlier deployed an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence of Iranian threats to U.S. interests in the region. Trump and Abe held talks after the U.S. president became the first world leader to meet Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, who ascended to the throne May 1.Trump’s “state call” opened with handshakes and greetings from Naruhito, and his wife, Empress Masako. As he approached the emperor, Trump said, “How are you? Thank you very much.” The first lady told the empress, “Nice to meet you.” Jill Colvin and Darlene Superville write for The Washington Post.

With Abe at his side, Trump told reporters at Akasaka Palace on Monday that “nobody wants to see terrible things happen”. Earlier, Trump became the first foreign leader to meet Japan’s newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito, in a state visit overshadowed by tensions over trade and policy on North Korea. Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Monday greeted Trump at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo as part of a formal welcome ceremony that was broadcast live on national television. Later on Monday, the US president and his wife, Melania Trump, will sit down to a lavish state dinner with the emperor and the empress. Emperor Naruhito ascended to the throne on May 1, opening what is called the era of “Reiwa,” or “beautiful harmony.” Trump and Abe spent the weekend playing golf, eating out and watching sumo. “There’s a sense that this is another sign of the good relations between these two countries, but in particular a sign of the relationship between Trump and Abe,” Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Tokyo, said. “There’s a sense that they could have given this meeting to anyone, but they didn’t. They gave it to the US, they gave it to Trump.”  Associated press reported to Al Jazeera.


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