Former PM Khaleda Zia jailed in corruption case
Bangladesh’s first female prime minister and main opposition leader Khaleda Zia has received a 5-year sentence on charges of embezzling over Tk 21 million ($252,000) from foreign donations intended for Zia Orphanage Centre. Her son and four other party officials also received 10-year sentences. The court decision means that Ms Khaleda will not be able to contest general elections which are due in December this year.
The tension between current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia has renewed with the court decision. The Bangladeshi constitution bars any person who is convicted for more than two years to contest elections. Consequently, Ms Khaleda’s chance of contesting next general elections looks dim which means that Sheikh Hasina and her party will able to rule Bangladesh without a real opposition. Considering past elections, it will not be wrong to say that the upcoming general elections will also be marred by violent clashes between ruling and opposition party activists. In other words, Bangladesh will witness a long and destabilizing spell of unrest in near future.
The US military designates Afghanistan as its main effort
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) has designated Afghanistan as its main effort by deploying combat and intelligence-gathering aircrafts from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan as the fight against the ISIS winds down in the Middle East.
Since Trump’s assumption of presidency last year, a spike in air strikes has been witnessed. Intensified air campaign saw attacks tripled in 2017 over the previous year. But the intensified campaign has been met with deadly attacks by militants. No information is available as such to suggest that the spike in air attacks has minimized the capabilities of militant outfits. Afghan Taliban are estimated to have control or are contesting 43 percent of Afghan territory. The deployment of air assets from the Middle East alone cannot defeat the militants, as acknowledged by the commander of coalition air forces in Afghanistan Maj. Gen. James Hecker.
South East Asia
ICC’s probe against President Duterte
The International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary probe against President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other government officials on the accusations that the accused have committed crimes against humanity as part of the ‘war on drugs’ campaign.
“While the government insists that all the killings were lawful, Duterte has been repeatedly quoted saying in public that he “will kill more if only to get rid of drugs”.” Ted Regencia writes for Al-Jazeera.
“Duterte is notorious for his dislike of the ICC, calling it “bullshit”, “hypocritical” and “useless”, and he has threatened to withdraw his country’s membership multiple times, even daring the court to bring him to trial.” Hannah Ellis-Petersen writes for the Guardian.
Middle East & North Africa
Iran calls for end of Turkish operation in Syria
Following a deadly clash between Turkish forces and Iranian-backed militias in Syria, Iranian President has called upon Ankara to end its operation in northern Syrian “at the earliest time.”
“Turkey-Iran relations have recently improved, but Tehran is seen to be increasingly concerned about the lack of clarity on the scope and duration of the Turkish military operation and Ankara’s goals.” Dorian Jones writes for Voice of America.
“Iran seems to be satisfied — at least for the time being — with the “Idlib for Afrin” deal between Turkey and Russia. In other words, together with Moscow, Tehran had apparently reached the conclusion that allowing Ankara to achieve what it wants in Afrin would free the Syrian government’s hand to retake the areas under the control of Turkey-backed rebel groups in Idlib province.” Hamidreza Azizi writes for Al-Monitor.
Sub Saharan Africa
President Zuma’s resignation date could be announced next week
Speaker of South African National Assembly Baleka Mbete has told Sky News that President Zuma’s resignation date will be announced next week.
“Mr Zuma is deeply unpopular with many South Africans after serving eight years as the nation’s President. He has been accused of multiple accounts of corruption and the country’s highest court said he violated the constitution when he failed to repay money spent on his private home.” John Sparks writes for Sky News. His presidency is also marked with an economic slowdown and record unemployment. It is important for African National Congress to resolve the power struggle within the party at its earliest and to prepare itself to restore lost public support before going for elections in April next year.
Merkel’s party suffers from new Grand Collation deal
After four months of negotiations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party reached a new deal with old allies – Christian Social Union in Bavaria and Social Democratic Party (SDP) – but at the cost of relinquishing key government posts including foreign and finance ministries to SDP. The deal must now be approved through voting by SDP members, numbering nearly a half million, early next month.
“Merkel’s struggle to form her fourth government reflects Germany’s increasingly fragmented party landscape and the rise of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, the first far-right party to win seats in the Bundestag, or lower house, since just after World War II.” Arne Delfs, Patrick Donahue, Birgit Jennen, and Rainer Buergin write for Bloomberg.
“Should [Merkel’s partners] agree to form a ‘grand coalition,’ the AfD, as the third-largest party in the Bundestag, would officially take on the role of chief opposition. Per tradition, this means it will have the first chance to respond to the government’s position during parliamentary debates, giving it extra airtime and visibility,” Emily Schultheis writes for the Atlantic.
Australia to offer apology to child abuse victims
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced to deliver a national apology to the child abuse victims by the end of the year. The announcement comes following an investigation by a government commission which found out that seven percent of Catholic priests allegedly sexually abused children from 1950 to 2010.
“The royal commission’s report was released late last year after a four-year inquiry, and found tens of thousands of children had been sexually abused. It found the abuse happened in almost every type of institution, including church-run bodies, as well as schools and places run by sporting and cultural groups.” Louise Yaxley writes for ABC.
“An apology to the victims of child sexual abuse will come a decade after Kevin Rudd’s landmark apology to the stolen generations.” Katharine Murphy writes for the Guardian.
Congress approves budget deal to reopen the government
Following Congress’ approval, President Trump signed a 2-year budget deal that will increase spending on domestic spending and defence by hundreds of billions of dollars. With the signing, the government reopens after it was shut down for the second time in three weeks.
“It [the deal] should pave the way for a measure of stability through September 2019 after months of lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis. Mr. Trump will get to boast of a huge increase in military spending, long promised, but his desire to more broadly reorder the government with deep cuts to programs like environmental protection, health research and foreign aid are dead for now — as is any semblance of fiscal austerity.” Thomas Kaplan writes for the New York Times.
“Voter concern over surging deficits is at its lowest level in nearly a generation. Just 48 percent of voters said reducing the budget deficit should be a “top priority,” according to last month’s Pew Research Center study….and it’s a dramatic drop from five years earlier, when 72 percent believed deficits were a top priority. It also represents the lowest share of Americans concerned about deficits since the months just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.” Paul Kane writes for The Washington Post.