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Legalizing Abortion: Argentina votes today!

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Legalizing Abortion

BUENOS AIRES: Lawmakers in Pope Francis’ native Argentina vote Wednesday on legalizing abortion, which if passed, would make it the most populous country in South America to allow women to terminate pregnancies.

The debate has divided Argentinian society. Though it has shed some of its traditionalism by pioneering the legalization of gay marriage in Latin America, it remains strongly influenced by the Catholic Church.

The Chamber of Deputies is deeply divided over the issue and after weeks of bitter debate, the result of Wednesday night’s vote is far from certain. Of the Chamber’s 257 deputies, 109 are expected to vote in favor of the bill, 117 against, with the remaining 29 undecided lawmakers casting the decisive votes in the lower house.

“Today we see an almost a neck-and-neck vote, with a slight advantage for those against the bill,” said Martin Maquieyra of President Mauricio Macri’s ruling Cambiemos party, who will vote against. Pro- and anti-abortion groups have called for demonstrations outside Congress today. 

As in most Latin American countries, abortion is illegal in Argentina, except in cases of rape or when the life or health of the woman is at risk. The new bill would decriminalize abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, and even afterward in cases where the fetus suffers from conditions not compatible with life outside the womb.

A piece published earlier: Experts here have concluded that more than two million babies die annually in the womb here in Pakistan. According to renowned gynecologist Dr. Sadia Ahsan Pal: “Unfortunately these are not backstreet abortions, these are numbers shared by Pakistan Demographic Health Survey and majority of them are married couples.” Answering to a query regarding family planning and societal outlaws, Dr. Sadia maintained that the ratio of contraceptive availability is merely 35% here. As a result, more and more duos opt for abortions. The President of National Committee of Mother and Child Health, Dr. Sadiqa Jaffrey explained that communal, moral and financial concerns are considered the basic triggers that pose severe threat to the life of expected ladies: “Women are not allowed to visit alone to the doctor, sometimes they don’t find transport and at other times they lack the financial means to travel.” As per the estimates, 300 out of 100,000 pregnant females have lost their lives owing to post hemorrhoid blooding, fits, and hypertension because of surplus and unintentional pregnancies. In this regard, senior gynecologist Professor Shabeen Naz held: “And last but not the least we should also advocate doctors and paramedics as well about advanced techniques of family planning because 80 percent deliveries have been done by midwives or local maternity centers in the country.” Experts here have further stressed that the administration should initiate more programs apropos family planning at once. Or else, the state of affairs will be poorer in the forthcoming years. (Published on 27th of October, 2016)

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Asia

ADB to provide $7.528 bn to Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has planned to support Pakistan with lending of $7.528 billion for various development projects during the next three years.

In its new Country Operations Business Plan (COBP) for Pakistan 2019-21 revealed on Thursday, the ADB has proposed a sovereign lending program for next three years worth $7.528 billion, consisting of $5.37 billion from regular Ordinary Capital Resource (OCR) lending and $2.158 billion from Concessional COR Lending (COL). COL includes a carryover of $600 million from 2018. The non-lending program for 2019–2021 is $21.7 million, including transaction technical assistance for various pipeline projects. An amount of $2.245 billion in ADB loan financing is allocated for the energy sector, which is 29.8 percent of the total pipeline for 2019–2021.  

The pipeline includes a multi-tranche financing facility for Transmission Strengthening (tranche 1) for National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC), Hydropower Development Project for Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), and support for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Gas Pipeline Project. For the transport sector, some $1.394 billion of ADB loan financing for the sector (18.5% of the total pipeline) have been allocated for the transport sector.  The pipeline includes the Sustainable National Highway Project and the Sindh Hyderabad Southern Bypass Project.

ADB also proposes support for the revitalization of Pakistan Railways to improve transport sector sustainability, including exploring non-conventional financing arrangements. For agriculture, natural resources, and rural development, ADB has allocated $794 million in loan financing to the sector (10.6% of the total pipeline).  The pipeline includes the Greater Thal Canal Irrigation Project, the Kurram Tangi Water Resources Project, and the Smaller Cholistan Water Resources Development Project. Similarly, for water and other urban infrastructure and services, the ADB has allocated $470 million in ADB loan financing (6.2% of the total pipeline).  The pipeline includes a cross-sector project readiness facility for Punjab and the Punjab Cities Improvement Project. ADB has also allocated $2.4 billion in loan financing to the finance and public sector management sectors (31.9% of the total pipeline).

The COBP, 2019-2021, includes new projects such as trade and competitiveness program (subprogram 1) in 2019; financial markets development in 2020; infrastructure financing and PPPs in 2021; as well as the second phase of support for the Benazir Income Support Program in 2020. The education and health sectors pipeline includes $225 million in loan financing (3.0% of the total pipeline). ADB’s re-engagement in education and health sectors includes $175 million for projects on secondary education in Sindh and improving workforce readiness and skills development in Punjab, and $50 million projects to improve quality of health care services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

ADB will also provide technical assistance across sectors to help project implementation and to generate and disseminate knowledge products to support policy and project development, as well as to enhance project quality and readiness. Pakistan, a group B developing member country, is eligible for regular OCR lending and concessional OCR lending (COL).  The indicative resources available during 2019–2021 for sovereign operations amount to $5,712 billion, comprising $4.29 billion for regular OCR lending and $1.422 billion for COL. The final allocation will depend on available resources, project readiness, project performance and debt distress rating of the country among others. ADB’s non-sovereign operations will supplement these resources.  ADB will also explore co-financing from other sources and seek financing from the regional pool under concessional resources and regular OCR for regional cooperation and integration.

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Politics

Russian military chief accuses NATO of buildup on borders

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MOSCOW: A senior Russian military official on Wednesday warned of a buildup of NATO forces close to the country’s borders, the defense ministry said.
Valery Gerasimov, head of Russia’s General Staff, “noted a strengthening of NATO’s frontline military presence close to Russia’s borders”, while meeting the commander of NATO forces in Europe Curtis Scaparrotti.
Gerasimov added that “this doesn’t help reduce tensions” between Moscow and the alliance, said a defense ministry statement after they met in Baku, Azerbaijan.
NATO and the US have accused Russia of violating a Cold War arms control treaty (known as the INF) with ground-launched missiles with a range of 500 kilometers ( to 5,500 kilometers, which Moscow denies.
The US last week warned it would withdraw from the treaty signed in 1987 within 60 days if Russia does not dismantle missiles that the US claims to breach the deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned such a move would only push Moscow to develop nuclear missiles banned by the treaty.

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Pakistan

US pronouncement about religious freedom in Pk rejected

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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office has totally rejected the United States’ pronouncement about religious freedom in Pakistan as politically motivated. 

In a statement, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr. Muhammad Faisal categorically stated Pakistan does not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities. He said besides the clear biases reflected from these designations, there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise. The spokesperson said Pakistan is a multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together. Around 4 percent of our total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths. He said ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan. Special seats have been reserved for minorities in the Parliament to ensure their adequate representation and voice in the legislation process.

A vibrant and independent National Commission on Human Rights is functioning to address concerns on violation of the rights of minorities. Foreign Office spokesperson pointed out that successive Governments have made it a priority that the rights of citizens belonging to minority faiths are protected as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. The higher judiciary of the country has made several landmark decisions to protect the properties and places of worships of minorities. He said Pakistan has devised legal and administrative mechanisms to safeguard the rights of its citizens. The spokesperson regretted the proponents of human rights worldwide close their eyes on a systematic persecution of minorities subjected to alien domination and foreign occupation such as in the Indian occupied Kashmir. He said an honest self-introspection would also have been timely to know the causes of the exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US.

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