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Fear of electoral violence: Ruling families seize power in Pakistan

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Fear of electoral violence: Ruling families seize power in Pakistan

Fear of violence during elections
Family dynasties seek power in Pakistan

Parliamentary elections in Pakistan, the South Asian nuclear power, are being held in a difficult environment. There are fears of more attacks. According to an opinion poll, the majority are dissatisfied. Pakistanis do not trust the regime and the opposition feels harassed. Meanwhile, two political dynasties vie for power.

Pakistan, the nuclear power in South Asia, elects a new parliament. About 130 million eligible voters are required to determine the distribution of powers in the National Assembly and provincial parliaments. Polling stations are open from 8am to 5pm (local time, 4am to 1pm CET) and are protected by 600,000 police and soldiers due to the fragile security situation. The preliminary result can already be known during the evening. Pollsters assume low participation.

As in previous elections, the campaign was overshadowed by violence. At least 26 people were killed and dozens injured in two attacks in the restive Balochistan province on Tuesday. The terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks. More than 650,000 army personnel, paramilitary forces and police officers are expected to provide security during the elections. The Foreign Ministry said that for security reasons, the land borders with neighboring Iran and Afghanistan will be closed to all traffic on Thursday.

In order to maintain „law and order”, the authorities also decided to cut off mobile phone communications in the country during the elections. A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior explained that this should be implemented “temporarily.” Internet monitoring website NetBlocks confirmed an outage in mobile and internet services, calling the move “inherently undemocratic.”

For months, political experts and human rights activists in the country have denounced unfair electoral conditions, with Pakistan's judiciary largely dismantling the opposition. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who remains very popular among the population, is in prison on corruption charges. The 71-year-old politician considers himself the victim of a political conspiracy and blames the powerful army for it.

The so-called Justice Party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, is also paralyzed because, according to the Supreme Court ruling, its members are only allowed to run as independent candidates. Dozens of cases remain pending against Khan since he was removed from office in a vote of no confidence in Parliament in the spring of 2022. The former cricket star won the last general election in 2018. Turbulent political years followed.

Dissatisfaction is at a record level

Many of Pakistan's 240 million people are disappointed with the elections and political leadership in the country A poll conducted by the Gallup Polling Institute From last year's shows. Accordingly, in a poll conducted in the fall of 2023, only 25% of those surveyed believed that the parliamentary elections would be held according to the rules.

During the last election in 2018, the percentage was almost twice as high. Also, 88% said they believe that corruption is widespread in the government. The miserable economic situation and very high inflation played a particularly important role in the election campaign.

Sharif and Bhutto fight for power

Now the election will be contested primarily between the two main political dynasties, the Sharifs and the Bhuttos. The preferred candidates are the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and its main candidate, three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif did not return home from his exile in Britain until the fall of 2023, and in the meantime, his younger brother Shahbaz was, among other things, prime minister.

Recently acquitted of longstanding corruption allegations, the 74-year-old former prime minister is back on the scene. Sharif's political clan, which also includes his daughter Maryam, is based in Punjab, the most populous and economically powerful region in the country.

Sharif's most important external opponent is the 35-year-old Oxford University graduate and former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is running as the best candidate for the Pakistan People's Party. The Bhutto family has led the center-left party since its founding. Bhutto Zardari's mother is the charismatic former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. The PPP and PML-N were recently part of a broad government coalition that ousted Imran Khan.

Unrest, instability and military power

Bhutto Zardari told local TV station Geo News the evening before the election that further government cooperation with Sharif's PML-N brothers would be impossible for him if the PML-N continued with the same policies, Dawn reported. . mentioned. As is usual in Pakistan in the months leading up to the elections, a transitional government is currently in power.

Nuclear Energy Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world with a population of 240 million and is suffering from an economic crisis. The inflation rate is about 30 percent, and the rupee has been in free fall for three years. Since independence more than 75 years ago as a result of the partition of British India, there has been frequent unrest and instability in the country. The army ruled for more than half this time. Even among civilian governments, generals were seen as the force that could decide the success or failure of political leadership. To date, no Pakistani prime minister has completed his term regularly.

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Russia escalates border conflict – migrants 'like pawns'

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Russia escalates border conflict – migrants 'like pawns'

In the border region with Finland, Russia uses migrants as a means of pressure to weaken the cohesion of the European Union. Finland responds with countermeasures.

Finland has been part of NATO since April 2023, abandoning its decades-old neutrality. Since then, tensions have increased with neighboring Russia. In addition to canceling the bilateral border agreement, Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced the transfer of troops to the border area with Finland. This is also evident in this year's annual report issued by the Estonian government, which shows that Russia is planning to deploy new units near the Finnish border.

Finland has responded to Russian measures by building a border fence up to 200 kilometers long – not least to combat illegal immigration in the border area allegedly controlled by Russia. The Frankfurter Rundschau reports on this matter.

As Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen revealed in a press conference on Tuesday, the Finnish government has information that “thousands of people are waiting on the Russian side to reach Finland.” According to Rantanen, it can be assumed that more migrants will try to cross the border once temperatures rise in the spring.

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The Finnish border with Russia is currently closed. According to the conservative Finnish government, this will not change until May this year after the number of migrants at the border rose rapidly at the end of 2023. According to the Finnish Border Authority, about 1,300 migrants from countries such as Yemen, Somalia and Syria tried to reach Finland via Russia between August and December 2023. Previously, only one asylum seeker applied for asylum per day on average.

Finland-Russia is Belarus-Poland

According to Armida van Rij of think tank Chatham House, Russia's strategy of using controlled migration as a means of pressure and thus undermining the cohesion of Western countries is a so-called gray zone tactic. According to van Rij, such tactics involve measures that go beyond purely political pressure, but do not clearly constitute an act of aggression. It is therefore difficult to evaluate such measures under international law.

The issue of migration is particularly ripe for dividing EU member states, as the issue is particularly polarizing within the Union. According to Van Rij, the migrants will be used “like pawns” to advance Russian interests.

Between 2021 and 2022, Belarusian Governor Alexander Lukashenko deliberately deployed migrants to the border region with Poland in order to pressure the European Union and force an end to sanctions against Belarus – but to no avail.

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“Put obstacles in our way”: Burbuk plane stuck in Rio de Janeiro

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“Put obstacles in our way”: Burbuk plane stuck in Rio de Janeiro

„Put obstacles in our way”
Birbok plane stuck in Rio de Janeiro

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Foreign Minister Baerbock was praising the G20 as an engine for reform in international relations, when suddenly her plane got stuck in Rio de Janeiro. The captain suspects that “the Brazilians are putting obstacles in our way.” This is not the first accident that the green politician has been exposed to.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock once again suffered a delay in one of her trips abroad. The Green politician originally wanted to leave for New York at around 5:30pm (CET) from the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Initially there was a waiting time because the government's Airbus A350-900 still had to be refueled. After completing refueling at approximately 6:30 p.m., the flight commander had to continue to postpone the minister. “Looks like the worm is there today,” the captain said. “We are currently trying to get permission to start the flight to New York. But the Brazilians are putting obstacles in our way today, one way or another.” At the moment, it appears that the departure permit will not be issued for another 30 to 40 minutes at the earliest. „I can't tell you why. In 40 years of flying service, I've never encountered anything like this. I'm sorry.”

At approximately 7 p.m., the plane took off on a nine-hour flight to New York. Baerbock wants to speak there on Friday, among other things, at the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council meetings on the second anniversary of the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Lots of experience dealing with disrupted flights

Only in January did Baerbock, often affected by problems on commercial flights, have to make an unplanned layover on a trip to East Africa. Due to the lack of a flight permit for Eritrea, their plane had to return en route from Berlin to Djibouti in East Africa and land in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Baerbock had previously described the G20 round as a “reform engine” within international institutions such as the United Nations. “If we want to meet the complex challenges of the 21st century, our multilateral institutions must not remain stuck in the last century,” the Green politician said in a discussion among G20 foreign ministers on reforms of international political organizations and the international financial architecture. “I believe that the G20 can and must play a decisive role in this reform process.”

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Martin Sonneborn in an interview about Assange: “It borders on sabotage”

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Martin Sonneborn in an interview about Assange: “It borders on sabotage”
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Martin Sonneborn speaks in an interview about Julian Assange's hearing. © Alberto Pizzali/Philip von Dittfurth/DPA

The Supreme Court in London decides to extradite Julian Assange to the United States. European Parliamentarian Martin Sonneborn speaks about the issue in an interview.

Mr Sonneborn, you are attending Julian Assange's extradition hearing in London. How has it gone so far?

Sonneborn: Actually very good. There were two submissions that were brilliantly presented by Assange's lawyers. I was in the courtroom and understood almost nothing.

There were reports that the technology left a lot to be desired.

What the British are doing here amounts to sabotage. The world's most important trial over freedom of the press – and it's taking place in the smallest courtroom you can find in the Supreme Court. The court blocked granting internet access outside of England and Wales – so people from the USA, Australia and the EU were unable to connect. Hence there is only room for twenty journalists at the exhibition. With live streaming, postage stamp-sized heads appear on the screen, often with no discernible sound for the first half. We managed to sneak into the hall, and MP Sevim Dagdelen was sitting with the Assange family and he let us in. Germans abroad must band together.

Sonneborn on Assange: “An attempt to silence critical journalism”

Assange case

The United States charges Julian Assange The charges of espionage and conspiracy threaten his personal safety and freedom of the press. A hearing on Assange's extradition to the United States was held at the High Court in London on February 20-21. This initially ended without resolution. If extradited, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison.

Frankfurter Rundschau The case of Julian Assange is accompanied by analyses, commentaries and interviews. They highlight the background and provide an overview of events in London. We have compiled the texts into our electronic file on Assange.

What did Assange's lawyers say?

All the arguments are on his side – I have shown once again how crazy it is to accuse a propagandist of publishing true information, including US war crimes. The whole thing is an attempt to criminalize and silence critical journalism. Assange's information was available in Spiegel, The Guardian, and The New York Times.

Assange is accused of espionage. what do you think?

Even if the espionage charge was deemed justified, he would not be allowed to be extradited because that would violate the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and Great Britain, which includes an explicit ban on political crimes. Espionage is considered a political crime under British law.

An Australian citizen is set to receive a 175-year prison sentence in the USA for exposing US war crimes. I once recommended to my colleagues in the European Union Parliament to show the film „Collateral Murder” on YouTube in one of my speeches. American soldiers can be seen shooting indiscriminately at civilians, children and journalists from a helicopter in Baghdad. The people who committed these war crimes will not be tried. And the man who announced this had been rotting in six-square-meter cells for five years.

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Extradition Hearing – Concern about Assange is great

Julian Assange himself was not present on Tuesday. They said he was sick. What do you know about his condition?

There is great concern for him here. He has been detained in a high-security prison for five years, without any valid legal basis. Belmarsh, to make this more descriptive, is the prison where the supervillains in the James Bond films are imprisoned. British food in solitary confinement, with malnutrition, is often an additional torture, as I have just discovered again in London.

At least he was still connected to the last trial, right?

Yes, there was a camera in the cell he was in. Assange suffered a minor stroke during the trial. It must be terrible when you're sitting there listening to lawyers negotiating your fate with other lawyers, and you can't even express yourself. On Tuesday, a luxury cell was prepared for him in the courtroom: a wire cage.

Wire cage?

Yes, you have to imagine it a little like the old Robin Hood movies. A late British Gothic room in which a few light bulbs, some broken microphones and some decorated curtains are hung in front of the high windows. On the front left was a few square metres, perhaps larger than his cell, which was surrounded by huge black bars. This is where Assange was supposed to sit.

The petitions claimed that Assange was accused of a political crime and that Britain was not allowed to extradite him because of a related treaty with the United States. What to expect for day two?

On Wednesday, the American side filed its charges under the Espionage Act, a law dating back to World War I. In fact, I don't see what would be great in terms of content. However, we know of course that the final decision will be made in Washington whether to halt this process or continue it until the bitter end.

'It's not enough': Sonneborn on lack of support for Assange

Do you have the impression that the number of Assange supporters has decreased? In Germany, many Green leaders have remained virtually silent. What does the situation look like in the European Parliament?

I think there are three MEPs here. This is very little. I saw Andrzej Honko and Sevim Dagdelen from the Bundestag and Jeremy Corbyn from the Labor Party. It is very unfortunate that more politicians are not defending Assange. It's about absolute basic rights, and it's about these Western values ​​that we always vocalize when it suits us. Unfortunately, both Baerbock and Habeck, who had publicly called for Assange's release before the government took office, promptly forgot their demands in their offices. Fortunately, there were a relatively large number of people on the streets of London.

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It was previously said that Julian Assange could be extradited to the United States within a few days after the hearing. How do you rate that?

So, based on everything I've heard, I think Democrats don't want to have a third contentious issue before the presidential election in addition to the problem areas of Ukraine and the Middle East. I think it will not be delivered at the moment. Assange may remain detained in his cell until the US elections.

Supporters demand freedom for Julian Assange. But if he is not extradited to the US after the hearing, but remains imprisoned in Belmarsh, it will only be a victory. On what legal basis can he continue to be detained?

The court may postpone its pending decision indefinitely. Assange has hardly any contact with his family. He has two young children and a wife. This is very stressful for everyone. An example is made here.

French texts on the Assange case (selection)

– Julian Assange in Portrait: One Man, Many Faces
Comment: The Assange case is a campaign against freedom of the press
– Article: Art, Protest, and the Julian Assange Case
– The United States of America and the Assange case: the dark side of power
– Analysis: What remains of WikiLeaks?
– Retrospective article: For Julian Assange, it's all about the now
– Support: Protests in front of the magnificent London Palace
– Politics: In the Assange case, the Greens were clearly silent

Interviews:
-Stella Assange: “Julian could be on a plane to the United States the day after the hearing.”
-Jeremy Corbyn: 'The media is very disappointing'

Assange case: Every whistleblower will 'think three times' in the future

What do you mean?

In the future, all whistleblowers will think three times whether they really want to expose government crimes. But I think everyone understands that at this point, so: release Assange! There is a public interest in uncovering Secret Service and military crimes.

We have published a 32-page booklet on the case, which can be downloaded from my home page. This is the only semi-official document from the EU Parliament in which Assange's name is mentioned. Otherwise, the major parties will work to distance him from even the smallest mention on any sub-point, even in the least important decisions. In our documentary, which is unfortunately not at all satirical, and even a bit controversial at times when the story becomes too tiresome, it becomes clear that Mike “Fatty” Pompeo is waging a vendetta against him.

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Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State and former CIA Director?

Yes. Assange has posted via WikiLeaks that the CIA not only conducts mass surveillance and espionage on governments and citizens around the world, but also – and this is against US law – on its own American citizens. It is capable of invading all computers and even taking over Internet-connected home appliances, even steering your car or turning your refrigerator into a well-stocked listening device. Pompeo took this personally, and the CIA then hatched a plan to kidnap and kill Assange. Approved by the White House. How do you want to extradite a person to a country that was planning to kill him?

I said that at the European Union level they avoid mentioning Assange's name. what is the reason?

I think that at the moment under Ms. von der Leyen's leadership, we are very close to the United States and NATO. This is anti-European and contrary to the Treaty. The Assange case is important to the highest levels of government in the United States; Every US president has pursued him, from Obama to Trump to Biden.

“There are two reasons”: Sonneborn is running for the EU Parliament again

Another question about your renewed candidacy for membership in the European Union Parliament. What motivates you to do this – the final part of idealism?

There are two reasons why we are competing again. The first is: We don't want to get kicked out the door. The CDU and SPD have passed an electoral law reform that violates the constitution and aims to keep us out of parliament using a threshold clause. The real accusation: very bad jokes and too much transparency. We are currently conducting member dispute procedures, and the Federal Constitutional Court recently informed President Steinmeier that he should not prepare the new electoral law at this time. Smiling

I think the accusation of transparency is more serious, right?

Exactly, and this is also the second reason: we can create transparency. Your colleagues here in Brussels are not that critical. But in the European Union we are moving more and more towards surveillance, extra-treaty militarization, and discrimination of opinions. I would like to continue to make all of these things transparent.

Interview: Christine is grateful

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