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Greece votes in landmark referendum in debt deal

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credits: telegraph.co.uk

By NewsGram Staff Writer

Greece participated on Sunday in a landmark referendum on terms of agreement on the next debt deal with the country’s lenders.

The voting unfolded smoothly and without problems at polling stations throughout the country, officials said.

Greece President Prokopis Pavlopoulos appealed to Greeks to remain united regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s vote, ANA-MPA news agency reported.

According to the Greek ministry of internal affairs and administrative reform, about 8.5 million people are eligible to vote in the referendum.

The referendum would be considered valid if at least 40 per cent of registered voters participate in the vote, TASS news agency reported.

The polling began at 7 a.m and is scheduled to close at 7 p.m. (9.30 IST). It would determine if Greece would avert a looming disorderly default or exit the eurozone.

Ahead of the referendum, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave a call to the citizens to vote against the creditor proposals for austerity reforms, thus throwing into question the country’s continuance in the eurozone.

He said the creditors’ proposals were clearly violating the pan-European rules and the right to employment, equality and dignity.

He urged the Greek people to say “no” to the proposals and the “no” vote would be the chief argument which the government would use as the basis for improving the parameters of the agreement during further consultations with the creditors.

The referendum would also decide whether to accept the debt draft deal with international creditors to restart financial aid to the country or to reject the lenders’ programme that requires Greeks to accept further austerity measures and economic reforms.

According to the IMF, the Greek debt load is unsustainable and Greece needs a debt relief in exchange for reforms and a new 50 billion euro ($5.5 billion) financial package until 2018 to stay afloat.

A day ahead of the referendum voting, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis accused Athens’ creditors of “terrorism”.

European leaders say a “No” vote could lead to Grexit — Greece’s exit from the eurozone.
Meanwhile, Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling has said he hopes the Greeks would vote for the draft agreement of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for settling the debt problem and its adoption by the Greek government.

“I hope that common sense will prevail because the Greek people know that it is not just the future of the euro which is in question. It concerns the future of Greece and their own future,” Schelling said.

“We have been making concessions to the Greeks for a long time and we are still extending our hand to them,” Schelling said, adding the EU would resume talks as soon as the Greek government states clearly what it really wants.

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69 Years a Slave? Balochistan’s Struggle for Freedom : A Detailed Report

Baloch nationalists assert that theirs is a freedom struggle; they were occupied by Pakistan in 1948 and have been fighting since to free themselves.

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Balochistan
Baloch people address their protests as a freedom struggle to liberate and unify their people and land from control of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Wikimedia
  • Even after 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, Balochistan refuses to associate itself as a part of the country
  • Pakistan’s military occupation of Balochistan began in 1948 before which the province had existed as an independent state
  • The insurgency in Balochistan traces its roots in ethnic nationalism along with feelings of political and economic exclusion

Balochistan, August 31, 2017 : Located in the South West of Pakistan, the Balochistan province of Pakistan constitutes nearly 45 per cent of the country’s territory. However, even after 70 years of Pakistan’s creation, the people of the province refuse to associate themselves with Pakistan or its framework of a nation state. They believe they have been Balochis for over three thousand years, who have now been invaded.

“It is freedom struggle,” believes activist Naela Quadri Baloch like many other Baloch nationalists. According to her, Balochistan had been occupied by Pakistan in 1948 and “ever since we have been fighting against Pakistan to free ourselves”, she believes.

In 2016 during an interview with The Times of India, the women’s leader and activist Naela Quadri Baloch had asserted that Pakistan is not interested in Kashmiris but specifically in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir for its desire to control the Indus river system. Similarly, it is also not interested in the Balochis, but the land of the state for its strategic location and mineral reserves.

Baloch nationalists assert that Pakistan’s economy is dependent on loans from the IMF, World Bank and the Western countries that are allegedly taken on the pretext of Balochistan’s rich mineral resources. They further claim that Pakistan’s strategic importance is also due to Balochistan coast. Pakistan would not be able to survive, which is why it does not want Balochistan to emerge as an independent state.

Balochistan
Balochistan comprises of about 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory. Wikimedia

While the world views it as an insurgency movement, Balochis address their protests as a freedom struggle to liberate and unify their people and land from control of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

They maintain that Balochistan was never a part of India or Pakistan and it had always been an independent country.

Balochistan At The Time Of Partition

Balochistan comprises of four erstwhile princely states – Kalat, Kharan, Lasbela and Makran, that had been unified by Naseer Khan, the Khan of Kalat.

During the British rule, the province was divided into British Balochistan (25 per cent) and Native Balochistan, occupying 75 per cent of the total territory with people pledging adherence to Naseer Khan.

Immediately following partition and the creation of Pakistan, Khan’s descendant, Mir Ahmed Yaar Khan was faced with three options – independence, or accession to either India or Pakistan. He decided upon independence, following which a communiqué was released on August 11, 1947 giving independent sovereign status to Kalat.

However, by October 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah mooted Kalat to formally join the state of Pakistan. The Khan of Kalat did not agree to the accession which was followed by a standstill between the two leaders upon the status of present-day Balochistan.

Becoming A Part Of Pakistan

By April 1948, the Pakistan army moved into the province and captured Kalat. The Khans’ attempts of an armed campaign against the Pakistan army went futile and the province was merged with Pakistan by June 1948.

At the center of Balochistan’s forced accession was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who had previously been hired by the Khans for his legal services to negotiate Kalat’s independent status with the Britishers.

Before partition, Jinnah had successfully mooted an ‘Independent Status’ of Kalat for which he was graciously awarded with gold. But, Balochistan breathed as a free country only from August 1947 to March 1948, after which Jinnah breached trust and betrayed the Khan, forcing the Pakistani invasion and eventual accession of Kalat.

ALSO READ Violence surges yet again in Balochistan

Surprisingly, during the struggle and annexation of present-day Balochistan, the Indian Congressmen, Mahatma Gandhi or the then-Governor General Lord Mountbatten made no attempts to hinder in the remonstration. This indifference can be attributed to the Indian leaders’ failure to realize the strategic implication of a sovereign Balochistan at the time.

A Growing Ethnic Nationalism

Following the formation of Pakistan, distorted power relations existed among different Muslim ethnicities. Additionally, unchallenged power was exercised by Punjabis who comprised of about 56 per cent population of the state.

In 1954, the One Unit scheme was launched by the federal government of Pakistan to merge the four existing provinces of West Pakistan (Khyber-Pakhtunkawa, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab) to form a homogeneous, united political entity in an attempt to,

  • Forge national unity on basis of Islam and geography
  • Reduce gross expenditure
  • Help eliminate ethnic prejudices.

The move triggered violence throughout the country and especially in Balochistan, wherein this was interpreted as a strategy to establish Punjabi domination.

Balochistan rose against the move, which came to an end in 1970 with the overthrow of the One Unit scheme.

However, following the rebellion, a strong sense of nationalism, propounding larger political autonomy and a separate state for Balochistan broke a full-fledged insurgency from 1973 to 1977; over 80,000 personnel were deployed to quell the rebellion.    

Armed struggle to achieve separation from Pakistan lasted throughout the 1970s, in which 3,300 army personnel and 5,300 Balochis were killed. However, the Pakistani government successfully compressed the movement.

Economic Alienation

Baloch nationalists have repeatedly argued that they are yet to receive any benefit from the development projects that have been initiated by the government in Balochistan.

  1. Reportedly, the Sui Gas Field in Balochistan caters to most urban households in the country. Despite producing about 45 per cent of gas for Pakistan, the province gets to consume a mere 17 per cent. Additionally, the Balochis get a nominal amount of Pakistani Rupees 6 for a 24-hour supply.
  2. The Pakistani government, in collaboration with China, initiated the development of the Gwadar port in the province, with an aim to better trade ties with Asia, Europe, and US. However, a large number of Punjabis and non-Baloch people were hired for the project, leaving an increasing population of Baloch engineers and technicians unemployed.
  3. Balochistan has one of the world’s richest reserves of copper and gold. However, as much as 16 kgs of gold is seized everyday by the Chinese under an arrangement with the government, which robs the Balochis of major economic benefits.
  4. Despite being one of the country’s key providing areas,
    • 80 per cent population of Balochistan continue to live in the absence of safe drinking water
    • 80 per cent people do not have access to electricity
    • 70 per cent children have never been to school
    • 63 per cent of Balochis live below the poverty line

While ethnic nationalist interests continue to worry Balochistan, a primary demand has also been about better control over the economic resources of the region.

However, the Pakistani government blames the nationalist struggle in the region for impeding the developmental process.

Political Subjugation By Islamabad

Balochistan makes up nearly 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory but the Balochs comprise only 5 per cent of the total population, making them a minority in Pakistan.

Their representation in the National Assembly of Pakistan is also negligible (17 out of 342) which reveals that the Balochis have lost their say in policy formulations and are forced to adhere to laws that have been put in place for them by power honchos sitting in Islamabad.

Additionally, the Pakistan government centered in Islamabad has eradicated most of the Baloch activists and nationalists, calling them ‘foreign agents against the state’. This can be supplemented with the murder of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti who was an ex chief minister of Balochistan.

ALSO READ Akbar Bugti: Remembering the Balochistan Hero on his 11th Martyrdom Anniversary

Pakistan And Its inherent Demand of Balochistan

Ever since the creation of Pakistan, it has been evident that the Pakistan government is more concerned with occupying the physical territory of Balochistan, with meager interest in its indigenous population.

The Pakistan army, on command of the government has employed every possible armory against its own people of Balochistan, in an attempt to contain the province within its seizure. Furthermore, army cantonments have been established at Dera, Gwadar, Bugti and Kohlu to gauge activity and movement of the Baloch people.

Additionally, despite occupying 45 per cent of Pakistan’s territory, the budget allocated to Balochistan is minuscule in comparison to its vast landmass.

In 2002, General Pervez Musharraf had striked a deal with China over the Gwadar port development as part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Baloch people condemned the allocation of land to the rich businessmen of Punjab and Karachi and further lamented the unemployment stemming from the project. The move also instigated further violence in the region.

Balochistan
Gwadar port in Balochistan. Wikimedia

As of now, according to report, all 22 districts of Balochistan continue to suffer at the hands of the enduring insurgency with the tally of displaced people now crossing over 2 lacs.

In more recent times, the Pakistan army took aid of suicide bombers to tackle the ongoing insurgency. On August 8, 2017, as many as 54 lawyers became victims of a suicide attack, which is being touted as a State-funded action as the group included several Baloch activists who had been vocal about Pakistan army’s interference in state affairs.

ALSO READ Balochistan Suicide Bombing: Provincial Government Falsely blames India for the Attack

According to a report published in Dawn,prince of the now redundant Kalat state, Prince Mohyuddin Baloch who is now the  Baloch Rabita Ittefaq Tehreek chief,  had said that Balochis are not looking to wage wars. Until now, Balochis have not once attacked Pakistan, but only defended themselves.

He said the objective of their protests has been to draw the government’s attention. However, regretfully, no one is paying any heed to their cries.

Dr. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar had rightly quoted in an article in the Economic and Political Weekly that the “ethnic difference remains the single biggest fault line in Pakistani politics.”

The Balochistan insurgency thus, traces its roots in a ripe ethnic nationalism along with feelings of political and economic exclusion. This animosity among the country will continue unless Pakistan accepts its non-Muslim history.


 

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Australian Man Jacob Welsh from Geelong, Melbourne raises $4,000 to bring stray dog home from Greece

Welsh said he and Chance became inseparable after he found her lying in a pile of broken glass on the side of a busy road in Greece

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Jacob Welsh with the dog. Image source: Facebook

Melbourne, Sept 6, 2016: An Australian man Jacob Welsh has raised $4,000 to bring a stray dog home from Greece.

Welsh is from Geelong, 75 km from Melbourne, raised the money on a popular crowd-funding Website, to bring the dog, which he named “Chance,” back to Australia, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

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The resounding success of the campaign guaranteed Chance would have a home for the rest of her life, said Welsh.

“Thank you! She will not spend another night on the street thanks to all the help we’ve received,” Welsh wrote on social media on Tuesday.

Welsh said he and Chance became inseparable after he found her lying in a pile of broken glass on the side of a busy road in Greece.

“I called her over to me and she hesitantly approached, I gave her a little pat and ever since then she has followed me wherever I go,” he wrote on social media earlier.

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“I didn’t have the heart to leave her on the street after that so since then I have been sneaking her into my apartment, which has a strict no-pets policy.

“The sad reality of her going back on the streets is becoming more and more real as my time left in Greece comes to an end.

“Australia’s laws are very strict with this kind of thing but I have done the research and it is possible, just very expensive. If you can spare a few dollars Chance and I would really appreciate it.”

Costs involved in bringing an animal into Australia include a rabies vaccine, pet passport, plane tickets, airport transfers, de-worming medication and a pet carrier box. (IANS)

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Sex Ratio Tipping towards Men: An Exhaustive Look at Swedish Demographics

Norway swung to a male surplus in 2011, four years before Sweden, while Denmark and Switzerland are nearing a sex ratio of 100

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Sweden. Image source: VOA
  • A National statistics agency, SCB showed 277 more men than women in 2015
  • European Union population statistics suggests women will remain in the majority in most European countries for decades to come
  • Despite a natural birth rate of about 105 boys born for every 100 girls, European women have historically outnumbered men because they live longer

The natural sex ratio at birth, as presented by World Health Organization, WHO, is 105 boys for every 100 girls. However, predominantly, in the West, women have always been more numerous than men because they live longer. Hence, it came as a surprise in Sweden, when, in March last year, the census highlighted the fact that there were 277 more men than women.

What’s more, the number has since then grown to a massive 12000, which is still not very big compared to 9.7 million, which is the current population of Sweden, but definitely perplexing. Many demographic analysts and population experts, like Tomas Johansson and Frencesco Billari, confess they were not expecting this event to occur so soon.

There is currently an excess of 12 million women in the European Union, which has a population of approximately 500 million as a whole. Eurostat spokeswoman Baiba Grandovska believes, however, that this gap between the number of men and women is likely to narrow in the coming years,  “mainly because of the decreasing gap in life expectancy.” This comes as a result of an overall change in the lifestyle of men as compared to their fathers.

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Increasing awareness of heart diseases, adverse effects of smoking and drinking and more sophisticated medical equipment has encouraged them to modify the way they live. Wealthier countries now offer safer desk jobs as compared to working in mines and the construction business.

In Sweden, particularly, the numbers are going a little crazy. There was an unusual increase in the sex ratio to 108 boys for every 100 girls born in the year of 2014. Beating that increase, the sex ratio is now an absurd 123 boys for every 100 girls among 16-17 year olds, which beats even the sex imbalance in China and India.

sex ratio

Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M University, who released these numbers, attributes this sudden rise in the sex ratio to the sudden wave of refugees, mostly adolescent boys, from Afghanistan, Syria and North Africa that have run away from their war-stricken homes to seek asylum in Sweden. BBC reports that Sweden has received more asylum applications than any other country in Europe -163,000 just last year.

The Scandinavian country also houses immigrant-friendly laws; any underage refugee receives stable housing and financial resources. News like this travels fast and many young men often lie about their age to avail of these services, a matter that has now become a pressing concern. The authorities are debating the application of age determination tests for better screening of underage individuals; however, this is still a sensitive topic in the Nordic country.

Adding to the appealing benefits of being an underage refugee in this country, they also enjoy the right to family reunification, through which the entire family can be brought to Sweden. Experts believe this right may work in favor of improving the sex ratio, as an invitation for the entire family into Sweden may mean that sisters and mothers arrive in Sweden, driving up the number of females.

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Security forces of Sweden fear that the country may not be prepared to adjust to the masculine nature of its society. There is an expected increase in the number of crime against women, somewhat following in the footsteps of India and China. Unsatisfied male bachelors, who may not find spouses in time, have a possibility of propagating harassment cases against women, and that is a scary prospect.

Annick Wibben, of the University of San Francisco dismisses this trail of thought, claiming that the concept of gender equality is so deeply embedded in the Swedish society, that it does not make sense to compare with Indian and Chinese populations. “The way in which masculinity works in different societies needs to be taken into account”, she said.

-by Saurabh Bodas

Saurabh is pursuing his engineering and is an intern at NewsGram. 

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