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Over 2,000 illegal migrants settled in India since Myanmar coup

The Sub-committee of the Manipur Cabinet has revealed that 2,187 individuals from Myanmar, classified as illegal immigrants, have established settlements in 41 locations across four districts. The sub-committee, led by Letpao Haokip, the Minister of Tribal Affairs and Hill Development in its report stated that Tengnoupal had the highest number of 1,147 Myanmar nationals residing, followed by 881 in Chandel, 154 in Churachandpur, and five in Kamjong.

In March and April, the sub-committee, including state Ministers Awangbow Newmai and Thounaojam Basanta, visited the tribal-dominated districts. They met with the illegal immigrants, discussing providing humanitarian relief and shelters.

Prior to the outbreak of ethnic violence on May 3, the Manipur government had planned to identify and detain the Myanmar nationals who had sought asylum in the state.

Around 5,000 immigrants, including women and children, have fled from the conflict-ridden Myanmar since the coup by Myanmar Junta in February 2021.

Interestingly, the report is presented by CSC chaired by Letpao Haokip, who himself has aligned with the Kuki causes. He along with nine other tribal MLAs, has called for a separate administration in response to the ethnic violence that occurred on May 3. Among the ten MLAs, seven, including Haokip, belong to the BJP. Recently, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh attributed the ongoing unrest in the state to infiltrators from across the border and militants, emphasizing that it are not a conflict between two communities. Manipur shares a 398 km unfenced border with Myanmar.

Illegal immigration, a reality of decades

According to an official report, illegal immigrants’ identification created a panic among them. During the identification drive, it was observed that they not only have migrated to Manipur in large numbers but also have formed their own village. Concerned by this, government proposed building shelter homes for them. But the illegal immigrants strongly objected to it, contributing to the recent outbreak of violence, as mentioned in the report.

The report also highlights the impact of the Manipur government’s ‘War on Drugs’ campaign on the poppy cultivation and narcotics business run by Myanmar nationals in the state. Influential illegal poppy cultivators and drug lords from Myanmar, who have settled in Manipur, have fueled the recent violence.

Various Kuki Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have accused the Manipur government of harassing Indian citizens under the pretext of identifying illegal immigrants. However, illegal immigration has been the reality of Manipur. Chins from Myanmar and Kukis belong to same Tibeto-Mongoloid race and hence have linguistic and cultural similarities. This makes it difficult to differentiate between them. Kukis have also been accused of supporting illegal immigration to change the demography of the region.

Joykishan Singh, JD(U)MLA of Manipur, had earlier stated in the Manipur Assembly that between 1971 to 2001, the population of the state grown by 153.3 per cent in the hill districts. However the rise per cent bounced to 250.9% between 2001 and 2011. The valley districts saw a population growth of 94.8% and 125.4% between the same periods respectively.

So far, the state has suffered alot by ethnic violence between the Meitei community, which is predominant in the valley, and the Kuki tribe, which is predominant in the hills. The violence has claimed the lives of over 120 people and left more than 400 injured, belonging to different communities.

Israel-Iran war: Israel attacks close to Iranian nuclear facilities in Isfahan

At least three explosions occurred above Isfahan, a central Iranian city hosting facilities for the country’s nuclear program, weapons factories, and a major airbase. Witnesses, including travelers at the city’s airport, reported hearing loud booms as air defense systems engaged “suspicious objects”.

“While Iranian officials provided contradictory accounts to downplay the events, US officials promptly attributed the attack to Israel. An Iranian official suggested the attack involved small drones, possibly launched domestically. Previous incidents, including a drone strike on a weapons factory in Isfahan in January 2023, have been attributed to Israel.

Israeli officials, though declining public comment, were reportedly, quoted off the record suggesting Israeli involvement, indicating the attack aimed to demonstrate Israel’s capability to strike deep within Iran.

Reports indicate Israeli military operations against Iran, though Washington did not specify their character or scale. Iranian state media reported the downing of drones over Isfahan province, displaying live shots of a calm Isfahan city post-sunrise to reassure the public.

Attack after Iranian retaliatory strike

The apparent attack follows Iran’s firing of over 300 missiles and drones at Israel in response to an Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria, killing seven Iranian officials on April 1.

Israel also struck targets in Iraq and Syria. Internal Iranian flights were canceled, passengers evacuated from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airports, and explosions reported over Tabriz.

Meanwhile, Iranian official has told the media that there is no plan for immediate retaliation against Israel. Additionally, Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) called for ‘extreme restraint for everybody’ adding that “nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts”. IAEA has confirmed no harm to the nuclear facilities in Iran in the attack.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa kills 7; includes 5 customs officials

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has once again unleashed terror, this time targeting a customs officials in the Saggu area of Draban Tehsil in Dera Ismail Khan district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has confirmed the deaths of five Pakistan Customs officials in the assault, including Officer Aslam Khan from Peshawar customs intelligence.

The attack also claimed the lives of two additional victims from Bannu district, including a 5-year-old child and a man who were unfortunate bystanders caught in the crossfire. A senior customs official highlighted the significance of the Saggu area, known as a hotspot for militant networks engaged in smuggling operations.

While taking the responsibility of the attack, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) alleged that its terrorists seized weapons from the customs officials during the assault. Following the devastating incident, a large-scale search operation has been initiated in the region to apprehend the perpetrators.

Karachi suicide attack: Japanese nationals unharmed; 2 personnel dead

On Friday, a deadly suicide blast shook Karachi, Pakistan, targeting a vehicle transporting Japanese nationals. The attack resulted in at least two fatalities, while miraculously, all five foreigners in the vehicle survived.

According to Abrar Hussain Baloch, spokesperson for the police, the Japanese survivors have been relocated to a secure location under police custody. Despite the severity of the attack, there has been no immediate claim of responsibility from any group.

Karachi Police have confirmed the nature of the incident, labeling it a suicide attack. Additionally, another vehicle sustained damage in the explosion. Details emerged that while one assailant detonated himself, the other was neutralized by law enforcement forces.

Further investigations revealed that the targeted foreign nationals were employed in the export processing zone. Among the casualties, three individuals sustained injuries and were promptly transported to medical facilities. Two of the injured are reported to be in critical condition. The identified victims include security guards Noor Muhammad and Langar Khan, along with passerby Salman Rafiq.

The attack on foreign nationals have increased significantly in Pakistan. Last month, a convoy of Chinese engineers working at Dasu dam was targeted in a suicide attack in Besham, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 6 people, including 5 Chinese engineers were killed in the attack.

Lok Sabha elections 2024: First phase voting underway for 102 seats

The mega seven-phase electoral exercise for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections kicked off on Friday with voters across 102 parliamentary constituencies spread over 21 states and Union Territories exercising their franchise in the first phase. Voting commenced at 7 a.m. and will continue until 6 p.m.

Alongside the Lok Sabha polls, assembly elections are also being held in the north-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. While Arunachal is voting for 2 Lok Sabha seats and its 60-member assembly, Sikkim is polling for 32 assembly seats and 1 Lok Sabha seat.

The elections are witnessing a high-stakes battle between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking his third consecutive term, and the opposition bloc INDIA – a coalition formed to challenge the ruling BJP.

Several Union ministers, including Nitin Gadkari, Kiren Rijiju, Bhupendra Yadav, and Arjun Ram Meghwal, are among the prominent candidates in the fray in this phase. Notable constituencies witnessing polling include 8 in Uttar Pradesh, 5 in Maharashtra, 3 in West Bengal, all 39 seats of Tamil Nadu and 1 in Puducherry, 5 in Assam, and 4 in Bihar.

The Election Commission has deployed over 18 lakh personnel across the 102 constituencies to ensure smooth conduct of polls. Additionally, webcasting is being done in over 50% of polling stations, while micro-observers have been deployed in all booths.

As per the latest figures released by the EC, Tripura is leading with a 34.54% voter turnout till 11 am, followed by West Bengal (33.56%), Meghalaya (33.12%), and Madhya Pradesh (30.56%) till 11 am. The lowest turnout of 16.33% has been recorded in Lakshadweep. The voter turnout in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was over 67 per cent.

Key issues ranging from unemployment, violence against women, farmers’ grievances, paper leaks, land rights of tribals, and price rise have taken center stage across the country during this election.

The remaining phases of the Lok Sabha elections will be held on April 26, May 7, May 13, May 20, May 25, and June 1. The results, declared on June 4, will ultimately decide whether PM Modi secures another term or if the opposition bloc emerges victorious.

Arrest warrant issued against POGB’s former Chief Minister in fake degree case

A senior Civil Judge has issued an arrest warrant for Khalid Khurshid Khan, the former chief minister (CM) of Pak-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, in a fake degree case.

The senior Civil Judge, Hidayat Ali, issued a bailable arrest order for the former POGB chief minister due to his repeated absences from court proceedings.

Khalid Khurshid, who was also the president of the Gilgit-Baltistan branch of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), is accused of obtaining a lawyer’s license from the Gilgit-Baltistan Bar Council by submitting an affidavit and a “fictitious” law degree from the University of London. He did this in order to obtain an equivalency certificate from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Islamabad.

A three-member bench of the POGB Chief Court had rendered a decision in July 2023 regarding a petition brought up by Shahzad Agha, a member of the GB Assembly, disqualifying Khalid Khursheed Khan in the fake degree case. The petitioner had claimed that Khursheed ought to be disqualified in accordance with Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution since his law degree was found to be forged.

While Khurshid claimed to have graduated from London with a legal degree, however this could not be confirmed. Khalid Khursheed had been in office as the Pak-occupied- Gilgit-Baltistan’s CM since December 2020 and was considered a close aide of PTI chairman Imran Khan.

This is the real face of the occupying forces. They not only fail to address the rampant lawlessness, but even participate in it. The innocent people of Pak-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan have no way to get their grievances addressed when the puppet authority in power is fraudulent itself.

BLF kills two Pak Army soldiers after an attack on Pak Army camp

The Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) launched an attack on a Pak Army camp in the Mashkel area, which resulted in the deaths of two Army personnel.

In a statement released to the media, BLF spokesperson Major Gwahram Baloch said the attack took place on Friday, April 12, in the Nali region of Mashkel in Pak-occupied-Balochistan. “The brave Baloch Sarmarchars (fighters) have killed two personnel of the occupying Army forces in an attack on Friday, April 12, in Mashkel,” Major Baloch said.

He explained that the BLF fighters launched a “sophisticated and heavy attack” on the Pak Army camp stationed in the Nali area. “In the intense attack, two personnel were killed and one was injured,” the spokesperson added.

The BLF statement asserted that the group claims full responsibility for this attack, and vowed that the freedom fighters’ attacks on the Army forces and all of its interests will continue until the complete independence of Balochistan.

To maintain its illegal grip over the region, Pakistan has employed various oppressive tactics, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, profiling and abduction of students, and supporting death squads. In response to these circumstances, Baloch freedom fighters have undertaken an armed struggle against the Pakistani establishment, targeting occupying forces, convoys and infrastructure.

Dubai floods: Cloud seeding; vegetation and drainage gaps

Dubai, known as the financial hub of the Middle East, has been severely impacted by heavy rain and storms, resulting in widespread flooding across the desert nation. The unprecedented rainfall has caused flight delays and diversions, with vehicles stranded on waterlogged roads.

The catastrophic floods in Dubai have followed the heaviest recorded rainfall, reaching approximately 25 cm (10 inches), almost equivalent to the UAE’s typical two-year rainfall.

The heavy rainfall has been attributed to a larger storm system moving across the Arabian Peninsula and advancing over the Gulf of Oman. Scientists suggest that changing climatic conditions and global warming may have exacerbated the intensity of the rain in Dubai and Oman. However, there are at least three factors that may have led the heaviest rain to culminate into worst man-made disaster of Dubai.

Scarce tree cover

Despite its arid climate and limited rainfall, the UAE’s desert landscape, coupled with sparse tree cover, makes it vulnerable to floods as well. The forest cover in UAE is merely 4 per cent of the total land. Trees play a crucial role in absorbing water through their roots, reducing the force and volume of runoff. However, the absence of trees diminishes the soil’s water-absorbing capacity, leading to significant runoff and soil erosion. This erosion further contributes to raised riverbeds or seabeds, increasing the risk of floods.

Although, the initiatives of afforestation were taken but the urge of making UAE a modern dream place with advanced facilities outpaced the desire for sustainable UAE. In 2010, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the vice president and PM of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai announced 1 million tree initiative but that initiative never conceived its goal as, the place of nursery – where the plants would be grown before moving them across Emirates – was decided to be used for building Mall of the World, world’s biggest shopping centre. Later in 2016, plans were improvised to build Jumeirah Central. Hyper-development overpowered the environmental concerns, which were obviously not taken seriously back then.

Drainage system

Dubai’s drainage system has been a longstanding concern. In the 2000s, the city lacked a proper underground drainage system, relying on trucks to evacuate sewage waste from buildings, which often dumped them behind huge sand dunes or grounds outside the city. With time, administration realised the necessity and imminent harm to its prestige and things started to change. As of 2013, 70% of sewage waste was drained through the drainage system while rest 30% was still dependent on sewage truck. Majority of the latter, are the areas of Old Dubai. Though, Dubai has affirmed to get fully functional and proper drainage system by 2025, with a $21.8 billion sewage system plan approved in June 2023, the problem of inadequate drainage system still persists and may have augmented the detrimental consequences of the rainfall and flood.

Cloud seeding

Cloud seeding is another factor widely discussed in relation to Dubai’s weather management. The UAE has been experimenting with cloud seeding since 1982 as a means to enhance precipitation. This technique involves dispersing substances into clouds to stimulate rainfall. Different methods, such as dispersing salts or directing infrared into clouds, can encourage rainfall. While cloud seeding can provide relief to drought-affected areas and support various sectors, it also poses challenges and potential side effects. These include environmental harm, disruption of natural climatic patterns, and uncertainties regarding the effectiveness and duration of rainfall. Despite these challenges, cloud seeding remains a part of Dubai’s adaptive approach to weather management.

Some argue that, the cloud seeding may have impacted the natural cycle of climate with the latest floods as its ill effects.

Lt. Gen. Ayman Bilal Safdar quits Pakistan Army amid rising tensions with Asim Munir

The resignation of Lieutenant General Ayman Bilal Safdar, a contender for the position of chief of the Pakistan Army, has sparked significant controversy within Pakistan. While the country’s mainstream media outlets, often perceived to be under the influence of the military, have largely remained silent on the matter, independent journalists and YouTubers have extensively covered the developments surrounding Lieutenant General Safdar’s departure.

Surprisingly, Lieutenant General Ayman Bilal Safdar had made headlines by accusing the Pakistan Army of electoral rigging during a Corps Commander Conference on March 5, 2024. His unexpected resignation has raised eyebrows, particularly given his status as the commander of GOC 1 Corps in Mangala, with retirement scheduled for 2027. Many in Pakistan speculated him to be the next Army Chief in 2025. So probably, Lieutenant General Safdar’s ambitions for the top military post may have clashed with the plans of current Army Chief General Asim Munir, leading to pressure for his resignation.

Second dismissal of Corps Commander

This incident marks the second dismissal of a corps commander within the Pakistan Army in the past year. Previously, Lieutenant General Salman Fayyaz Ghani was removed from his position as GOC 4 Corps in Lahore following an incident where workers of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, PTI, vandalized the Flag Staff House in Lahore.

Journalist and Pakistan Democracy Forum convener Haider Mehdi has been credited with breaking the news of Lieutenant General Safdar’s resignation. Mehdi provided insights into the timeline of events, revealing that Safdar was abruptly relieved of his duties as commander of GOC 1 Corps on April 4, subsequently being summoned to report to GHQ in Rawalpindi. However, instead of complying, Safdar chose to resign from his post on April 2. His resignation has since been accepted by the Pakistani Army and the President. Currently, Lieutenant General Ayman Bilal Safdar is reported to be in Saudi Arabia for Umrah pilgrimage.