World Newsletter

29 Sept 2020



China has begun five military exercises simultaneously along different parts

of its coast, the second time in two months it will have such concurrent

drills against a backdrop of rising regional tensions.

A Reuters news agency report on Monday said two of the exercises are being

held near the HOang Sa (Paracel) Islands in the disputed South China Sea,

one in the East China Sea, and one further north in the Bohai Sea, the

Maritime Safety Administration said in notices on its website.

According to Straits Times, last month, China announced four separate

exercises, from the Bohai Sea to the East and Yellow Seas and down to the

disputed South China Sea, in what Chinese military experts said was a rare

arrangement of drills. The four separate exercises were announced last

month, a rare arrangement, according to Chinese military experts.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Monday said US military

actions have made it "the biggest threat to the peace and stability of the

South China Sea". China has also held frequent military activities near

Taiwan, declaring that the drills were directed at the island Beijing

considers part of its territory.





Pakistani anti-corruption officials arrested the country's opposition leader

on Monday, days after he vowed to help lead efforts to dislodge Prime

Minister Imran Khan's government.

Shehbaz Sharif - who heads the Opposition in the country's National Assembly

- was arrested in Lahore after the eastern city's high court rejected a bail

plea in a money-laundering case.

"We are not scared of these arrests," said Marriyum Aurangzeb, spokeswoman

for Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).

Mr. Sharif is the brother of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The

arrest comes as Opposition parties have reignited efforts to remove Mr. Khan

from office, vowing earlier this month to launch a protest movement in the

coming weeks demanding the government's resignation.





Fierce fighting raged between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces on Monday,

sparking bellicose rhetoric from regional power Turkey despite international

pleas for a halt in fighting between the longtime enemies.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a territorial dispute over the

ethnic Armenian region of Nagorny Karabakh for decades, with deadly fighting

flaring up earlier this year and in 2016.

The region declared its independence from Azerbaijan after a war in the

early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives but is not recognised by any country -

including Armenia - and is still considered part of Azerbaijan by the

international community.

Fighting between Muslim Azerbaijan and majority-Christian Armenia could

embroil regional players such as Russia, which has a military alliance with

Armenia, and Turkey, which backs Azerbaijan.

Karabakh's Defence Ministry said 27 fighters were killed in fighting Monday

- after previously reporting 28 - bringing their total military losses to


The overall death toll rose to 67, including nine civilian deaths: seven in

Azerbaijan and two on the Armenian side.

Azerbaijan has not reported any military casualties, but Armenian separatist

officials released footage showing burnt-out armoured vehicles and the

bloodied and charred remains of soldiers in camouflage it said were

Azerbaijani troops.

With each side blaming the other for the latest fighting, world leaders have

urged calm as fears rise of a full-scale conflict.





Outgoing Catalan leader Quim Torra said on Monday that regional elections

would be held in the coming months after Spain's Supreme Court upheld a

ruling barring him from public office for 18 months, sparking protests in

Barcelona in the evening.

In a televised address, Mr. Torra said he would appeal the sentence, which

he described as a politically motivated move to overthrow the Catalan


Nevertheless, the ruling took effect as soon as Mr. Torra was officially

notified of it, meaning Catalan deputy leader Pere Aragones is expected to

become acting head, likely triggering an election.

"This needs to be a turning point. There must be a new plebiscite to confirm

the October 1st referendum," Mr. Torra said, referring to a 2017

independence poll that was declared illegal by the courts.

"I will continue to work tirelessly for the freedom of Catalonia from any

other space from which I can be helpful," he said.

Mr. Torra left the Catalan government building on foot as a few hundred

people gathered to protest the ruling.

The case stems from Mr. Torra's refusal, during a national election campaign

in 2019, to follow orders from Spain's electoral committee to remove a

banner supporting jailed separatists from the main facade of his government


Mr. Torra has defended himself on grounds of freedom of expression, but the

court said its ruling encompassed not personal rights but defiance of a

constitutional body.

Cristina Narbona, president of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's PSOE party,

said a new regional election should be held fast to stop "political

paralysis" in Catalonia.

Catalonia's 7.5 million people are split over independence, with the latest

opinion poll showing 42% in favour and 50% against.





The Swiss have rejected a bid to dramatically reduce immigration from the

European Union, but have embraced offering paid paternity leave for the

first time, projections from several votes in the country Sunday showed.

Shortly after polls closed at noon (1000 GMT), projections from gfs.bern

polling institute indicated that 63% of Swiss voters had balked at the

initiative to tear up an agreement permitting the free movement of people

between Switzerland and the surrounding EU.

The initiative, backed by the populist right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP)

- Switzerland's largest party - had been opposed by the government,

Parliament, unions, employer organisations and all other political parties

out of fear it would jeopardise overall relations with the bloc.

Public support for the initiative had also been seen slipping in recent

opinion polls, but the suspense remained high since SVP has eked out

surprise victories in the past in its war against tightening relations with

the EU.

Most people vote in advance in the popular polls and referendum held in

Switzerland every few months as part of the country's famous direct

democratic system, usually making it possible to quickly surmise which way

the vote is headed.

SVP's initiative called for Switzerland to revise its Constitution to ensure

it can autonomously handle immigration policy.






An anti-corruption court in Pakistan on Monday indicted former President

Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in a money laundering case, a

move described by his party as "victimisation" of opposition leaders.

The development comes just ahead of the planned protests next month by

Opposition parties to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The case is about the alleged use of fake accounts by the former president

and other accused to park and launder the allegedly ill-gotten wealth.

The 63-year-old husband of the country's first woman prime minister Benazir

Bhutto and his 62-year-old sister Talpur were present in the court.

Judge Muhammad Azam Khan of the accountability court in Islamabad indicted


The court also indicted Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed and his son, Abdul

Ghani Majeed.

All the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

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