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Turkish airstrikes in N. Iraq kill 4 PKK terrorists

ANKARA (Anadolu Agency): Turkish airstrikes have killed four PKK terrorists in northern Iraq, the General Staff said Saturday.

According to a Turkish General Staff statement, the airstrikes were carried out in the Avasin Basyan region.

In recent days Turkish officials have suggested that the Mt. Qandil region — where the terrorist group has its headquarters — may be the target of a future operation.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the death of some 40,000 people.

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Afghan forces resume offensive operations after govt ceasefire ends

KABUL (AFP): Afghan security forces resumed offensive operations on Saturday after President Ashraf Ghani declared an end to the government’s unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban.

Ghani said the ceasefire, which lasted 18 days after it was extended once and overlapped with the Taliban’s unilateral three-day truce for Eid, had been “98 per cent successful”.

“The ceasefire is over. The Afghan security and defence forces are allowed to restart their military operations,” Ghani told reporters.

The three days of no fighting were unprecedented in the nearly 17-year conflict and triggered jubilant scenes across the war-weary country.

Taliban fighters and security forces spontaneously celebrated the holiday that caps the holy month of Ramazan, hugging each other and taking selfies.

The militants were also mobbed by relieved civilians, who have borne the brunt of the war, raising hopes of a renewed push for peace talks.

Ghani said the ceasefire had shown that the majority of the insurgents wanted peace and it was the “Taliban’s turn to give a positive response”.

“I am ready to extend the ceasefire anytime when the Taliban are ready,” he said at a press conference.

But the sight of its fighters openly mingling with security forces and civilians over Eid appeared to alarm the Taliban’s leaders, who on Sunday ordered their men back to their posts.

The Taliban vowed Tuesday to continue their bloody fight against the government and their foreign backers, brushing aside rising civilian casualties.

The insurgents returned to the battlefield last week after refusing a government request to extend their ceasefire, launching attacks across the country that have seen scores killed or injured.

The renewed violence has poured cold water on hopes the truce would provide a clear path to peace talks, with the Taliban refusing to bow to pressure to lay down their arms until foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

The truces did not extend to Daesh, which has a relatively small but potent presence in Afghanistan and launched two deadly attacks on ceasefire revellers during Eid.

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Indigenous Mexicans spurn presidential vote with blockades, bulldozers

NAHUATZEN (Reuters): Mexican voters will stream to the polls this Sunday in a pivotal presidential contest, but leaders representing tens of thousands of indigenous people have vowed to block voting in their communities to protest a system they say has failed them.

Polls say Mexico is on the verge of electing its first leftist anti-establishment president in modern history, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. But the prospect of change has failed to resonate with inhabitants of small towns nestled in the lush, wooded countryside of southwestern Michoacan state.

Residents here have destroyed campaign signs and set up blockades to prevent the government from delivering ballots. Election officials have declared 16 towns here “unviable,” and will not likely risk confrontation to force polling stations to open.

Among the no-go zones is the impoverished hamlet of Nahuatzen, where Purepecha indigenous locals grow avocados and eke out a living on tiny plots. On Thursday, several dozen men, some in cowboy hats, stood vigil near the town’s entrance. They had laid a tree trunk across the road to stop outsiders from entering.

“The politicians haven’t done anything besides enrich themselves and they’ve left us behind,” said Antonio Arriola, a member of a recently-created indigenous council that has petitioned the Mexican government for autonomy.

After word spread on Friday that local party bosses may try to deliver ballots in their personal cars, indigenous leaders said they would use bulldozers to dig a trench in the main road to strengthen their blockade, a tactic already employed in a nearby town.

Arriola and other local leaders grudgingly acknowledged some common ground with Lopez Obrador, the 64-year-old former Mexico City mayor who got his start in politics decades ago advocating for indigenous rights.

But Arriola said the Purepecha have learned the hard way not to pin their hopes on promises coming from politicians, even ones that purport to have their best interests in mind.

“Our roads, schools and health care have been in the gutter for more than 40 years,” he said.

Nahuatzen is part of a growing movement among Mexico’s indigenous communities, who are seeking self-rule and turning their backs on mainstream elections.

Dissent in Michoacan ignited seven years ago, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, when just one jurisdiction, the municipality of Cheran, opted out of voting. This year, the boycott spread to six additional municipalities affecting dozens of polling stations across the 16 towns, home to at least 50,000 voters.

Agitation has likewise spread to traditional Maya communities in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Guerrero.

Indigenous leaders in at least six towns and small cities in those states are also pledging to block balloting on Sunday. That could impact tens of thousands more voters.

Electoral authorities may set up polling stations outside towns that have rejected them, allowing those who want to vote to do so, said Erika Barcenas, a lawyer based in Morelia, Michoacan’s capital, who advises communities that want more autonomy.

“But I think the view of the majority is a more global rejection, a rejection of political parties and of the kind of democracy we have right now,” she said.

The growing complaints of indigenous Mexicans appear to track a broader restlessness in the country, where widespread political corruption, drug violence and entrenched poverty have fueled discontent.

Support for democracy among Mexicans plummeted from slightly more than 70 percent in 2004 to just under half last year, according to data from the Latin America Public Opinion Project.

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Election Commission allots electoral symbols to parties

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: As the extension in deadline to submit party tickets ends, the process of allotment of electoral symbols is underway.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has been allotted the symbol of Tiger, PML-Q has been allotted the Trackor, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been allotted the Bat and the Arrow has been allotted to the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP).

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has been allotted the Kite as their electoral symbol while Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) has been appointed the Book, while Sheikh Rasheed’s Awami Muslim League (AML) has been allotted ink pot with a pen, and Chaudhry Nisar will contest election under the symbol of Jeep.

Faisalabad’s Toota Pehalwan has been allotted Parrot, while Maryam Nawaz has been allotted Pencil for NA-125.

On the other hand, despite disqualification, PML-N leader Daniyal Aziz has been allotted pot for NA-77 Zafarwal, while Qasim Farooq has been allotted Bucket for NA-105.

The process of appointing electoral symbols is still underway at the ECP.

Meanwhile, final lists of candidates along with their symbols are being posted outside the offices of returning officers and district returning officers countrywide.

In Islamabad, 28 candidates are in the race for the NA-52 seat whilst for NA-54, the main contestants are Anjum Aqeel of PML (N), Asad Umar of PTI, Imran Ashraf of PPP and Mian Aslam of MMA.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Ayesha Gulalai and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are vying for the NA-53 seat among others.

The process of consolidation of data is currently underway and the completion of the process will take some time and the final list of candidates will be published on the election commission s website after the consolidation of entire data.

Polling will be held on 25th of the next month. The Commission has also extended polling time. It will begin at eight in the morning and will continue till six in the evening without any break.

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Shehbaz admits dissociation with Chaudhry Nisar

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday said that he had friendly relations with Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, however, regretted that the two of them have dissociated with each other.

In a media interview Shehbaz Sharif said that he had convinced Nawaz Sharif for awarding ticket to Nisar, but it could not happen because of issuance of statements from both sides.

“I have had an affiliation with Chaudhry Nisar and I won’t issue statements on that throughout my life,” he said.

The former Punjab CM also said that the party has chosen him for premiership and if they won the elections, then he would be the prime minister.

He denied allegations of lending any form of support to Reham Khan for her upcoming book which has stirred controversy.

“I am neither behind Reham’s book nor gave her a single penny for it directly or indirectly,” Shehbaz said.

Met Reham only once when she wasn’t married to Imran, says Shehbaz

The PML-N president further said, “Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has alleged that I am behind Reham’s book but I give no value to his allegation.”

“I only met her once when she interviewed me during the 2014 sit-ins and never after that,” the former Punjab chief minister said.

Speaking about the allegations levelled against him by the PTI chairman, Shehbaz said, “Khan Sahib said I gave Rs27 billion to Reham for the book through an alleged front man Javed Sadiq.”

“The second allegation he has levelled against me is that I offered him Rs10 billion to stay mum on the Panama Papers case,” he continued.

“Imran’s third allegation against me is that I took Rs1-2 billion in commission in Multan Metro Bus project through partnership with a Chinese company,” the former Punjab chief minister said.

Shehbaz upheld that he sent notices to Imran following each allegation.

“However, he never replied to me after which I even went to court and neither he nor his counsel ever appeared for any of the cases,” he asserted.

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Mbappe double sees France past Argentina in 4-3 thriller

KAZAN (Reuters): Teenager Kylian Mbappe scored two goals in four minutes to send France charging into the World Cup quarter-finals and Lionel Messi home with a thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina on Saturday.

The 19-year-old forward’s electric pace caused Argentina problems all afternoon and his twin strikes helped France overturn a 2-1 deficit and set up a quarter-final date with Portugal or Uruguay, who play later on Saturday.

While Mbappe was the most influential player on the pitch, Argentina’s Angel Di Maria and France full back Benjamin Pavard fought out a private contest for the best goal of the contest with two magnificent long-range strikes.

Di Maria’s goal cancelled out Antoine Griezmann’s early penalty to put Argentina on equal terms just before the break, while Pavard’s in the 57th minute levelled up the scores at 2-2 after Argentina had gone ahead through Gabriel Mercado.

Mbappe, the first teenager since Brazilian great Pele in the 1958 final to score two goals in one World Cup match, then took over to send Argentina slumping out of the finals before the quarter-final round for the first time since 2002.

Twice champions Argentina got a consolation through substitute striker Sergio Aguero in added time but they simply could not cope with Mbappe’s pace from his first surge towards the box after nine minutes.

Javier Mascherano brought him down and Griezmann crashed the subsequent free kick off the bar from 25 metres but France only had to wait a couple of minutes to break the deadlock.

Mbappe set off on another driving run from well inside his own half and Marcos Rojo, well beaten for pace, bundled him to the floor inside the area.

Griezmann’s strike from the spot was not as clean as his free kick but goalkeeper Franco Armani went the wrong way.

Early Onslaught

France looked like doubling their lead after 19 minutes when Mbappe set off to chase a Paul Pogba ball and Nicolas Tagliafico hauled him down.

The referee decided it was a free kick on the edge of the box, however, and even if Pogba blasted high over the bar, Argentina looked shell-shocked at Mbappe’s early onslaught.

Four minutes before the break, though, they were level, Di Maria received a pass from the left, took one touch to tee up the ball and hit the sweetest shot into the top-left corner of the net from 40 metres.

Three minutes into the second half and they were ahead, Messi curling a shot hopefully towards Hugo Lloris in the France goal and right back Mercado reacting instinctively to deflect the ball into the net.

The Argentina fans were now in full voice but their joy did not last long before France restored parity after 57 minutes, Pavard pouncing on an over-cooked cross some 20 metres out and lashing it on the half-volley into the net.

Mbappe’s first goal came seven minutes later when he snared a loose ball, taking one touch to race past his marker and lashing it home with his left foot through Armani’s dive. His second came after 68 minutes at the end of a beautifully flowing French move with Olivier Giroud providing the subtlest of touches to lay the ball into Mbappe’s path and the teenager finishing right-footed with some elan.

Argentina continued to fight over the last 20 minutes but Aguero’s header from Messi’s cross in stoppage time was too little, too late.

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CJP says consensus developed to construct two new dams immediately

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Chief Justice of Pakistan on Saturday remarked that consensus has been developed for immediate construction of two new dams in view of the chronic water crisis in the country.

CJP Justice Saqib Nisar made the remarks while hearing a suo motu case related to Rs54 billion worth of loan waivers carried out by 222 individuals and companies.

The top judge observed that the consensus was developed during a key meeting with experts and various stakeholders earlier this week. The amount recovered from the defaulters will be used to construct two new dams immediately, the CJP remarked.

Chief Justice Nisar stated that some of the defaulters have expressed willingness to pay 75 percent of the written-off loan amount, whereas those who do not return the amount will be sent to the banking courts.

The court then adjourned hearing of the case till July 4.

During previous hearings on the prevailing water crisis in the country, CJP Nisar had observed that construction of dams was imperative for Pakistan’s survival, and had inquired about the measures being taken to resolve the water issue.

During one such hearing, regarding the Kalabagh dam issue, the top judge had remarked that unity among all four provinces was important for resolving the crisis. All four brothers provinces should come together and make sacrifices for the construction of dams, he had observed.

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Ahad Cheema in hot waters, as NAB launches probe in Ravi Project

F.P. Report

LAHORE: The Lahore wing of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has launched a new probe into the River Ravi Zone Front Development Project, tightening its noose around provincial bureaucrat Ahad Cheema.

Cheema, the former director-general of Lahore Development Authority (LDA) who is already under investigation in the Ashiana Housing Scheme scam, now faces another probe by the accountability bureau in relation to the River Ravi Zone Front Development Project.

The Ravi Project, started during the tenure of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, allegedly employed services of a blacklisted company for a survey.

NAB, which filed a reference against Cheema in the Ashiana Housing Scheme case on Friday, has decided to issue fresh arrest warrants for the bureaucrat. The decision was made during a recent board meeting at the bureau.

Cheema is accused of awarding a contract of the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing project of approximately Rs14 billion to Lahore Casa Developers — a joint-venture which was ineligible for the contract — by misuse of authority and with criminal intent.

The anti-graft body had launched an investigation against the management, officers, and officials of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC), management and owners of Lahore Casa Developers, officers and officials of the LDA after the government cancelled the award of the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme to the successful bidder M/S Chaudhry Latif and Sons.

On June 19, an accountability court in Lahore sent Cheema and chief executive officer of Bismillah Engineering Shahid Shafiq to jail on judicial remand after their 90-day and 87-day physical remands ended.

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We were never prepared the way we are this time: Imran

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan Saturday said that they were never prepared for the election the way they are this time.

Addressing workers here at Jinnah Convention Centre as part of his election campaign in National Assembly constituency NA-53 Islamabad, he said that he wanted to tell a few things to the workers.

“Workers should note that the first rule of a competition is to never consider your opponent weak,” the PTI chief said. “We were never prepared the way we are this time.”

Speaking of distribution of tickets, he said that he faced immense difficulties in the process of awarding party tickets to the candidates.

“There were several capable candidates, but the ticket was to be handed to one person,” Imran said, adding that there was no way to avoid the dismay of aspirants.

“My wife saw me growing old in three weeks over the matter of party tickets,” he said.

“When 11 players are picked out of a squad of 20, then the remaining individuals feel disappointed,” the PTI chief said, adding that once he also felt disappointed when he was not selected in the team.

He lauded the women members of his party for their services during [Islamabad] sit-in, however, noted that awarding tickets to women, who could legislate, was necessary.

He said the phase of tickets’ distribution was really tormenting. “I do not want to get into the agony of tickets in future; we will hold party election after the general election.”

He further said that no woman will be awarded ticket for a reserved seat, unless she makes her way up through the party ranks by contesting intra-party elections.

Imran Khan on Saturday invited former PML-N member Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor to join PTI.

During his contact with the PML-N renegade, Imran said to Ghafoor, “You are a brave man. PTI needs people like you.”

Abdul Ghafoor announced to end his 28-year-old association with the PML-N last week, after accusing the Sharif brothers of ‘selling’ party tickets.

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India’s steel firm Tata and UK’s Thyssenkrupp to merge

LONDON (BBC NEWS): Tata Steel and Thyssenkrupp have agreed a merger that will create Europe’s second-biggest steelmaker.

The deal will mean Indian-owned Tata Steel’s UK plants are merged into a pan-European venture with annual sales of about £13bn.

These include the UK’s biggest steelworks at Port Talbot in Wales, which employs 4,000 people.

Tata said its “ambition” was to not have any compulsory redundancies in the UK as part of the joint venture.

German-owned Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board gave the go-ahead to the merger on Friday – the two companies have been in negotiations for more than a year.

Between them, they employ about 48,000 workers.

The merged group anticipates it will make costs savings of between £350m to £440m a year.

  • Merger means investment in Port Talbot blast furnace
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  • Tata Steel UK’s pensions deal approved

Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Steel, said: “This is a significant milestone for Tata Steel and we remain fully committed to the long-term interest of the joint venture company.

“We are confident that this company will create value for all stakeholders.”

When details of an initial agreement emerged last September, both sides said they expected about 4,000 jobs would go as a result of the merger, half from administration and half from production.

In Wales, where almost 7,000 people are employed by Tata, unions hope the deal will bring an end to uncertainty for workers.

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community – the steelworkers’ union – welcomed the announcement, saying it would have “the potential to safeguard jobs and steel-making for a generation”.

But he said the venture would only succeed if there was strategic investment to make sure the business thrived.

Tata announced in 2016 that it wanted to sell off its entire UK operations – before scrapping plans and optioning for a merger deal.

Thyssenkrupp chief executive Heinrich Hiesinger has previously said the two companies needed to consolidate and become more efficient because of increasing pressure from imports and an overcapacity within the industry.

More recently, European steel makers have faced 25% tariffs on exports to their biggest market, the US.

“The joint venture with Tata Steel is an important milestone for the transformation of Thyssenkrupp to an industrials and service group and will lead to a significant improvement of the financial figures of Thyssenkrupp,” the group said in a statement.

It added that the “signing of the definitive agreement is expected shortly” and that the deal would be subject to clearance in several jurisdictions, including the European Union.

The new company will be called Thyssenkrupp Tata Steel and be based in the Netherlands.