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UK decides to lift ban on pro-Khalistan Sikh group ISYF

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Britain: Set to lift a 15-year-old ban on a pro-Khalistan militant group after a debate, the House of Commons in Britain concluded that “sufficient evidence” does not currently exist to link it to terrorism.

The International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), established in the 1980s in militancy-wracked Punjab, was involved in “assassinations, bombings and kidnappings, mainly directed against Indian officials and interests”, the British Parliament heard this week.

However, the debate entitled ‘Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism’ on Tuesday night concluded that “there is not sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief” that the ISYF is currently concerned with terrorism.

It therefore approved the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2016, which was laid before the House of Commons on February 22 and will be formally passed on Friday.

“The decision to de-proscribe the ISYF was taken after extensive consideration and in the light of a full assessment of all the available information,” UK minister for security John Hayes told the Commons.

He was questioned by Labour’s shadow home secretary Andy Burnham whether the ban had been maintained since 2001 “because of pressure from the Indian government”, something Hayes denied “without equivocation, hesitation or obfuscation”.

Labour’s longest serving Indian-origin MP Keith Vaz welcomed the government’s decision, saying, “At every meeting that I have attended to do with the Sikh community, members of the community ask about the issue and feel that they have been discriminated against.

“There are 450,000 Sikhs living in the United Kingdom, and about 150 gurdwaras in the UK. Even though it is one organisation, because it has the word ‘Sikh’ in its name, it affects other parts of the diaspora,” he said.

He also called for a review of the ban in place against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The ban on the ISYF in the UK came in force in March 2001, which led to the organisation being banned in India in December that year and in Canada in July 2003.

The Sikh Federation (UK) had applied for the ban to be lifted last year, followed by a legal challenge against UK home secretary Theresa May for refusing to lift the ban.

The Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission (POAC) had sought further reasons for May’s refusal to lift the ban but the UK government decided instead not to further contest the ban and moved the order for parliamentary approval on February 22 this year.

Sikh Federation chair Bhai Amrik Singh said “The Home Secretary has shown courage in making this decision despite the inevitable pressure from the Indian authorities and so close after the attacks in Paris (last November). However, this also shows there was no case against the ISYF that would stand up to legal scrutiny”.

Britain’s decision to lift the ban will be formally notified to the UN and the European Council once agreed in Parliament at the end of the week.

(The article was first published in ddpunjabstarnews.com)

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  • Shriya Katoch

    it is great to see that such unfair bans have been lifted

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A Majority of Children Die Due to Lack of Basic Healthcare Facilities: UN

For children everywhere, the most precarious time is the first month of life

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A malnourished child lies in a bed waiting to receive treatment at a therapeutic feeding center in a hospital in Sana'a, Yemen, Jan. 24, 2016. (VOA)

An estimated 6.3 million children died before their 15th birthdays in 2017, or one every five seconds, mostly due to a lack of water, sanitation, nutrition and basic healthcare, according to report by United Nations agencies on Tuesday.

The vast majority of these deaths – 5.4 million – occur in the first five years of life, with newborns accounting for around half of the deaths, the report said.

“With simple solutions like medicines, clean water, electricity and vaccines” this toll could be dramatically reduced, said Laurence Chandy, an expert with the U.N. children’s fund UNICEF. But without urgent action, 56 million children under five – half of them newborns – will die between now and 2030.

Globally, in 2017, half of all deaths in children under five were in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in 13 children died before their fifth birthday. In high-income countries, that number was one in 185, according to the report co-led by UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

Children
UN: A Child Dies Every Five Seconds, Most Are Preventable Deaths. Pixabay

It found that most children under five die due to preventable or treatable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis and malaria. Among older children – aged five to 14 – injuries become a more prominent cause of death, especially from drowning and road traffic.

For children everywhere, the most precarious time is the first month of life. In 2017, 2.5 million newborns died in their first month, and a baby born in sub-Saharan Africa or in Southern Asia was nine times more likely to die in the first month than one born in a high-income country.

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Despite these problems, the U.N. report found that fewer children are dying each year worldwide. The number of under five deaths fell to 5.4 million in 2017 from 12.6 million in 1990, while the number of deaths in five to 14 year-olds dropped to under a million from 1.7 million in the same period. (VOA)