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UK MPs to debate press freedom, safety of protesters in India next week

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Move comes in response to an e-petition which had crossed the 100,000-signature threshold required for such a debate

(Asian News Hub) – British lawmakers will debate the issue of press freedom and safety of protesters in India next Monday in response to an e-petition which had crossed the 100,000-signature threshold required for such a debate, the House of Commons Petitions Committee confirmed on Wednesday.

The 90-minute debate will be held at Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament complex in London and will be opened by Scottish National Party (SNP) MP and member of the Petitions Committee Martyn Day, and a minister will be deputed to respond on behalf of the UK government.

The debate relates to the petition entitled ‘Urge the Indian Government to ensure safety of protesters & press freedom’, which called on the British government to make a public statement on the “#kissanprotests & press freedoms”.

Next week, the issue will come up for debate and is expected to involve backbench MPs who have been vocal on the issue of farmers’ protests in India, including Opposition Labour MP Tan Dhesi.

India has emphasised that the protests by farmers must be seen in the context of India’s democratic ethos and polity and the Ministry of External Affairs said that some vested interest groups have tried to mobilise international support against the country.

“Before rushing to comment on such matters, we would urge that the facts be ascertained, and a proper understanding of the issues at hand be undertaken,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement last month.

Thousands of farmers have been camping at several Delhi border points since November last year, demanding the government to repeal three farm laws and provide them legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for their crops. Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmer unions have not been able to resolve the deadlock.

“Media freedom and the right to protest are essential to robust democracies such as the UK and India. Governments have the power to enforce law and order if a protest crosses the line into illegality,” the UK government had said in its written response to the petition last month.

The response, necessitated after any e-petition on the Parliament website crosses the 10,000-signature mark, noted that the British government is conscious of the level of concern regarding the farmers’ protests in India and appreciates that there are “strong feelings” in Britain towards the issue as many British citizens have family ties to farming communities in India.

“We understand that the Government of India has held several rounds of talks with farmers’ unions, and that in January the Supreme Court put three farming laws on hold and designated an expert committee to scrutinise the laws,” according to UK government statement.

“The UK government will continue to follow the farmers’ protests closely. We respect that agricultural reforms are a matter for India, and will continue to champion human rights globally,” it adds.

Last month, the Indian High Commission in London had issued an open letter to another Labour MP, Claudia Webbe, after her several interventions over the issue on social media.

The letter, accompanied by a detailed fact sheet, read: “It is emphasised that the reforms, intended to protect and empower farmers in India are based on inputs from experts and recommendations by Committees that have analysed the specific challenges of the agricultural sector in India over the last 20 years.

“The efforts continue – but Government of India is more than aware of efforts by vested interests abroad to fuel the protests through misinformation and incendiary assertions that are not helpful in progressing the dialogue between the protesters and government or addressing the issues through the democratic processes that our people have traditionally relied on.”

The Indian government last week said it has shown utmost respect for protests by farmers and has remained engaged in dialogue with them to address their concerns.

PTI

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Afghanistan: 37 killed, over 70 injured as blast hits Shia mosque in Kandahar

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(Asian News Hub) – Suicide bombers assaulted a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan that was packed with worshippers attending weekly Friday prayers, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 70, Associated Press reported quoting hospital official and an eyewitness.

The attack on the Imam Barga mosque came a week after a bombing claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan.

Also Read: Amit Shah warns Pakistan, refers to surgical strike

Murtaza, an eye-witness who like many Afghans goes by one name, said four suicide bombers attacked the mosque. Two detonated their explosives at a security gate, allowing the other two to run inside and strike the congregation of worshippers.

Speaking to The Associated Press by phone, he said Friday prayers are typically attended by around 500 people.

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At least 20 killed, over 300 injured in an earthquake in Pakistan

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(Asian News Hub) – At least 20 people were killed and over 300 others injured after a powerful 5.9 earthquake struck Pakistan’s Balochistan province early on Thursday, October 7, 2021, according to PTI quoting media reports.

Disaster management officials said the death toll may increase, Geo News reported.

According to the seismological centre, the epicentre was located near Harnai at a depth of 15 km.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said many of the dead were women and children.

The quake affected Quetta, Sibi, Harnai, Pishin, Qila Saifullah, Chaman, Ziarat and Zhob in Balochistan.

Images on social media showed people in the city of Quetta out on the streets in the aftermath of the quake, Dawn newspaper reported.

Aftershocks are still being felt in different areas. The earliest tremors were felt at 3:20 am after which panicked citizens rushed out of their houses reciting verses from the holy Quran. Relief and rescue activities are underway, with an emergency declared in all hospitals.

According to Deputy Commissioner of Harnai Sohail Anwar Hashmi, several people have been rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

He said that several buildings in Harnai have been damaged. Many people were left buried under the rubble.

The power supply to the area has been suspended, he said.

According to the rescue sources, more than 70 houses were reported damaged in Harnai.

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World surpasses 5M COVID-19 deaths

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(Asian News Hub) – The coronavirus death toll around the world surpassed 5 million on Friday, according to Reuters’s tally.

Around the world, an average of 8,000 deaths a day were reported, according to the outlet. However, it noted that the global death rate has slowed in recent weeks.

Reuters reported that it took over a year to accumulate 2.5 million deaths, but it took under eight months to accumulate the second 2.5 million deaths.

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